It’s been going on for a while but as of now the sea lion issue on the Columbia River is really starting to be a problem. More and more people have chimed in about this and while not a lot of them are wrong in their thinking the issue of finding a compromise still hasn’t left everyone satisfied.
So what’s the big issue? Well to be honest it’s that California sea lions have been steadily making their way up north and as they have they’ve been doing what comes naturally, they’ve been eating. What they’re eating is a problem since their elevated numbers mean that they’ve been dipping heavily into the salmon that so many people depend on for their livelihood, and they’ve been tormenting fishermen up and down the Columbia River. Many people have wondered for years why it’s not possible to just get rid of them or thin the herd as has been done with other species, but the biggest roadblock concerning that course of action is that sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. However they’re not listed as a depleted or endangered species.
They’re not quite as protected anymore.
Thanks to an addition within the MMPA it is possible to take action when sea lions are seen to have a negative impact on endangered salmon and steelhead stocks. This is however possible near Bonneville Dam where they’ve been seen to be a much bigger problem as they tend to hang out near the fish ladder where the pickings are easiest. This however does qualify as a negative impact largely because the fish have absolutely no chance as they move upriver only to encounter a group of hungry sea lions.
The authorization of violent removal is something that many people feel is excessive, as killing animals just to get them out of the way doesn’t seem all that useful.
There’s a catch.
Only those that are authorized to remove the sea lions are allowed to do so, and only in areas where there seems to be a negative impact upon the aforementioned fish populations. An average sea lion can eat up to four or five fish per day, and some can even eat more, so you can imagine what hundreds of sea lions can do to the salmon population in a single day.
This is not an all-out sanction to slaughter and decimate the sea lion population, but instead a chance to thin the herd and keep the salmon population able to grow and continue, while at the same time keeping the sea lions in check just enough so that their numbers won’t expand to the point of people losing their livelihoods when they can’t pull in a decent haul.
Many people want to cry out that mankind is far too brutal for forcing animals out of their way when they need to survive, but one thing that seems to be forgotten is that nature is far more brutal than anything mankind could ever accomplish. These sea lions that you see out in the river care nothing for mankind, they would likely eat every last fish in it to survive and never bat an eye if a human couldn’t feed themselves or their families.
In nature there’s always a need for a balance, but sometimes it comes with a high price.