Skip to main content

Sea Lions Feasting on Endangered Salmon Stir Oregon Controversy

sea lion
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In recent years, sea lion populations have skyrocketed in Oregon’s Columbia river. Like any predator, they eat other wildlife to survive, that’s how nature works. However, these sea lions are decimating endangered salmon and steelhead runs.

From wolves to sea lions, predators strike strong emotions. Start talking about lethal predator management and the animal rights activists practically lose their minds. However, lethal removal is a needed management tool, and sea lions are an excellent example. Here’s why.

Portland Indymedia
Portland Indymedia

The Chinook Observer is reporting that the House Committee on Natural Resources has passed H.R. 564, the “Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act.” H.R. 564 authorizes a federal agency to issue one-year permits to lethally manage non-endangered sea lions. 

But why is lethal management necessary, you might ask? Here’s why: Oregon Public Broadcasting reported in March of 2015 that the sea lion population in Oregon’s Columbia river climbed to a record 2,340, shattering 2014’s record of 1,420!

As a result of the increase, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife research shows that sea lions now consume 14 percent of the federally protected wild steelhead run. That’s up from 11 percent in 2015.

In addition, sea lions are also consuming an estimated 10,000 chinook salmon. And of that 10,000 salmon, biologists estimated that up to 35 percent of the salmon are from salmon runs listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Would this expedited removal endanger the sea lion population? Unlikely. The West Coast alone is home to over 300,000 California sea lions. Oh, if you’re curious about non-lethal measures. They’ve been tried, and they’ve failed. In fact, Oregon went as far as trying to use a mechanical killer whale (sea lions’ natural predator) to scare the sea lions away.

It failed, miserably.


you might also like

Sea Lions Feasting on Endangered Salmon Stir Oregon Controversy