Humans, seals are in conflict

Posted by Christine, June 15, 2011

A House subcommittee began deliberating Tuesday whether to speed up the killing of an exploding population of California sea lions that is preying on thousands of endangered salmon in the Columbia River.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said residents in the Pacific Northwest had spent billions to save their salmon only to see aggressive sea lions kill them. Last year alone, he said, 6,000 salmon were killed.

Saying the current law is “inadequate and cumbersome” in granting permits, Hastings has introduced a bill that would give the states of Washington and Oregon, along with Indian tribes in the region, a quicker way to get federal permission to kill the sea lions.

The Humane Society of the United States opposes the plan, warning that it could result in “vigilante action” against the sea lions.

California sea lions have increased from a few thousand in the 1920s to more than 238,000 today, said Jim Lecky, director of the Office of Protected Resources in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

In Oregon, fishermen are fighting back. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife decided that the 18 sea lions who regularly weigh down a dock had gotten way too comfortable. After ODFW funding for hazing sea lions using non-lethal explosives dried up about two months ago, Dye and wildlife officials resorted to a motion sensor connected to a sprinkler system.

A sixth dead gray seal was found shot on a Cape Cod beach on Friday following similar cases in recent weeks, an animal welfare group said.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was carrying out its routine search for stranded marine mammals when it discovered the seals with gunshot wounds.

Five of the seals died from the wounds but the cause of death of the sixth seal had not yet been confirmed, according to IFAW.

Gray seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a