A man-made crisis is underway in the Pacific Northwest at the Bonneville Dam situated on the Columbia River which divides Washington and Oregon. The topic of pinnipeds feeding around dams and locks where salmon and other fish congregate has been an enduring source of debate for decades in the Northwest. Federal mandates have been periodically allowed for the culling of sea lions near Bonneville Dam in order to protect depleted salmon runs. Salmon are forced to fight their way up through the fish ladder before proceeding to spawning grounds further east on the Columbia. Sea lions, both California and Steller sea lions (a"threatened" species), gather at the base of the dam and feed on the stalled, trapped fish.
Many scientists and advocates believe that this culling responds neither to the real source of declining fisheries nor the need to provide protection and humane treatment to all seals and sea lions (protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act). In fact, it has been established that recreational fishermen between the mouth of the Columbia and Bonneville Dam take a higher percentage of migrating salmon than do the sea lions.
Dams kill migrating salmon. A significant percentage of adult fish die trying to pass through the dam upriver to spawn. And a too-high percentage of juvenile salmon, known as "smolt", die trying to get to the ocean for the first time, backed up into unnatural warm-water reservoirs before navigating over dams with dangerous turbine engines. For an excellent analysis of how dams further endanger already "threatened" and "endangered" species of migrating salmon and steelhead forced to navigate the many dams on the Columbia River Basin and Snake River, click here.
As long as this (and other) dams remain, it is a no-win situation for all involved - the advocates who seek to protect the pinnipeds, the Oregon and Washington State employees forced to carry out Federal mandates - and, most certainly, the seals and sea lions who, as food sources dwindle, seek an easy meal of salmon trapped on the river below the immense cement structure. And obviously this barrier is devastating for already stressed and depleted fish stocks.
To discover more about this controversial situation, please explore the links below. This page will be updated with breaking news as it occurs.
NOAA APPROVES REMOVAL OF SEA LIONS AT BONNEVILLE DAM (May 15, 2011, Associated Press) Oregon and Washington have been given permission to resume removing or killing California sea lions at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, a federal agency said Friday. Read the full story.
WHY SALMON ARE DISAPPEARING (Idaho Rivers United) Excellent analysis of the many factors of decline of salmon species, most especially that of dams along Idaho's Snake River and the Columbia River. Read here.
SEA LIONS FEED ON STURGEON AT BONNEVILLE DAM (February 26, 2011) Oregon and Washington fishery agencies petitioned to remove Steller sea lions from federal protection - it is listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Key to that is to count how many salmon, steelhead and sturgeon the Stellers take.
The decline led Oregon and Washington this month to put the tightest limits ever on sport and commercial sturgeon fishing, the fourth straight year of cuts. While the states are about to adopt a conservation plan, most biologists and fishermen fear a continued decline of sturgeon, and an eventual halt to all sport and commercial fishing. Read the full story. SEA LIONS CONTINUE TO MUNCH SALMON, DESPITE HAZING AND LETHAL INJECTION PROGRAM (May 13, 2010) Despite hazing by shotgun-fired firecrackers, rubber buckshot and lethal injections that have killed 10 California sea lion this year, the amount of salmon eaten by sea lions at Bonneville Dam is approaching record levels. Animal activists say the numbers prove that the offensive is futile. Read the full story.
ANGER MOUNTS AS SEA LIONS ARE KILLED FOR EATING ENDANGERED FISH (April 2, 2010) Year to date, six healthy sea lions have been euthanized by Oregon state wildlife officials under a federal program allowing them to be killed if caught eating salmon at the Bonneville Dam, located on the border of Washington and Orgeon. Hungry sea lions have discovered that the dam is an excellent place to feast on fish as they gather at the base of the dam and attempt to scale the 6-story high fish ladder. Wildlife advocates argue that fishermen take 4 times as many fish as the feeding sea lions. Read the full story.
SEA LIONS KILLED FOR EATING SALMON (March 8, 2010, Huffington Post) A California sea lion last week became the first salmon predator to be euthanized this year under a program that has been denounced by those who say there are far greater dangers to salmon – including the series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia river. Read the full story.
FIRST SEA LION OF YEAR KILLED FROM BONNEVILLE DAM (March 4, 2010, Seattle Times) Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife says it has killed its first fish-eating sea lion this year after capturing it at Bonneville Dam. A department spokesperson says the seal lion killed Wednesday is one of 64 on a list authorized for euthanization. Read the story.
SWIMMING IN CONTROVERSY, SEA LION C265 IS FIRST TO BE KILLED (April 17, 2009, The Oregonian) Last month, "C265" became the first Californina sea lion legally euthanized by the government since the marine mammal protection act passed nearly 40 years ago. Read the story of why this sea lion, who ate approximately 43 salmon in one year out of roughly 85,000 which passed through the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam, was killed.
FIRST SALMON-EATING SEA LION KILLED AT BONNEVILLE DAM (March 12, 2009, The Oregonian) Wildlife officials euthanized a salmon-eating sea lion at Bonneville Dam for the first time Thursday, killing it with a lethal injection after a health examination determined it couldn't be relocated to a zoo or aquarium. The California sea lion -- branded C265 -- is thought to be the first deliberately killed by a Northwest government agency. Marine mammals received legal protection under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Read the complete story here. BONNEVILLE DAM SEA LIONS FACE CAGES OR SHARPSHOOTERS (February 27, 2009, The Oregonian) Wildlife officials will resume trapping of salmon-eating California sea lions at Bonneville Dam as soon as Monday. A federal appeals court raised the stakes Thursday when it denied a request from the Humane Society of the United States to block Washington, Oregon and Idaho from killing as many as 85 sea lions a year. "As of this point they have permission to go out there and start killing," said Sharon Young, marine issues field director for the Humane Society of the United States. Read the complete story here with video clip.
COURT WON'T STOP PLAN TO TRAP BONNEVILLE SEA LIONS (February 26, 2009, Seattle PI) A federal appeals court has refused to issue a stay sought by the Humane Society of the United States which would prevent sea lions being trapped and killed at the Bonneville Dam on the Washington and Oregon border. Trapping may begin as early as Monday. Read the complete story here.
JUDGE OKAYS PLAN TO KILL SEA LIONS AT BONNEVILLE DAM (November 26, 2008) A federal judge says state governments can proceed with plans to kill up to 85 California sea lions a year for five years in the Columbia River at Bonneville Dam. Read more below: “Judge okays plans to kill sea lions at Bonneville Dam” HEAT KILLED SIX SEA LIONS AT BONNEVILLE DAM (May 14, 2008) According to federal authorities, six sea lions found dead at Bonneville Dam apparently died when they overheated inside floating cages set out by state officials on the Columbia River. Read the full story in The Oregonian here: “Heat killed six sea lions at Bonneville Dam, federal officials say” REWARD OFFERED AFTER SIX PROTECTED SEA LIONS ARE KILLED (May 2008) The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for killing six federally protected sea lions on the Columbia River. Read the story here. STAY OF EXECUTION FOR SEA LIONS AT BONNEVILLE DAM (April 3, 2008) On April 1, The HSUS negotiated a temporary stay of execution for sea lions with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the states of Oregon and Washington. Read the full story: “Stay of exectution for sea lions at Bonneville Dam” FEDS ALLOW SEA LION SHOOTING AT BONNEVILLE DAM (March 18, 2008) The HSUS announced strong opposition to a plan approved by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to allow as many as 85 California sea lions to be shot. Read the full story here: “Feds allow sea lion shooting at Bonneville Dam” DAYS NUMBERED FOR BONNEVILLE DAM SEA LIONS (March 18, 2008) The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has authorized Oregon and Washington to kill up to 85 sea lions for feeding on salmon gathering at the base of Bonneville Dam. Read the full story here. HSUS SPEAKS OUT AGAINST LETHAL REMOVAL OF PINNIPEDS “Killing Pinnipeds to Protect Fish: Solution or Sophistry?” NOAA DRAFTS AUTHORIZATION REQUEST FOR LETHAL REMOVAL OF SEA LIONS (January 17, 2008) Read NOAA draft proposal here.