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In a previous article ( http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/10/347687.shtml), I asked people to contact their congressional representatives regarding HR 6241, a controversial piece of legislation aimed at circumventing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and allowing for the slaughter of sea lions. I took my own advice, and wrote to my representatives. I can't even believe the reply I just received from Senator Ron Wyden.
In a curt response, Senator Wyden (from whom I had expected better) thanked me for writing to him, and then proceeded to build his case for allowing the killing of sea lions. Bizarrely, he appealed to the protection of the Chinook salmon under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to explain why sea lions (protected by the MMPA) should be killed. He seems to be saying that the sea lions are in violation of the ESA, and therefore can be killed. Here is the text of his letter:


Thank you for contacting me regarding California sea lions preying on migrating salmon and sturgeon, particularly near the Bonneville Dam. I appreciate hearing from you.

As you know, this is becoming an increasing occurrence in river systems and bays located along the West Coast. According to a multi-year study by the Army Corps of Engineers, sea lions in the Columbia River are appearing earlier each year and in greater numbers. Between 2002 and 2004, the percentage of the returning run of Chinook salmon eaten by sea lions increaded from 0.2% to 2.1%. Clearly, the impact rate is more significant in years when the salmon runs are small, such as this past year.

During the spring of 2005, more than 100 sea lions came to Bonneville Dam to feed on salmon. IN addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) documented 14 cases of sea lions preying on migratory sturgeon. However, most of the sea lion controversy is centered around approximately 35 "problem animals" for which FWS's usual methods of deterring salmon-feeding by sea lions have proven unsuccessful. Although Chinook salmon are protected by the Endangered Species Act, California sea lions are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The States of Oregon and Washington have initiated a process under MMPA to allow for lethal measures to be used on 2 California sea lions that have learned to climb the Bonneville dam fish ladders to access migrating salmon.

I worry about the long-term impacts that sea lions, such as those at the Bonneville Dam, may have on already fragule salmon and sturgeon runs. Salmon, in particular, are a valuable resource socially, economically, and culturally for the Pacific Northwest and the nation. In Addition, I am concerned because these sea lions are growing more aggressive in their interactions with humans. I will continue to pursue a balanced solution to the situation and should the issue come before me in the Senate, I will keep your views and concerns in mind.

Again, thank you for keeping me apprised of the issues that are important to you.


Ron Wyden
United States Senator

Please, if you care about the sea lions, write and call Senator Wyden now, and demand that he stop scapegoating sea lions for the decline of salmon. If sea lions are responsible for "2.1%" predation on salmon, as Senator Wyden suggests, then there is a long line of culprits who need to be addressed way before killing sea lions can even be considered. As I reported in my previous article, the dams themselves are responsible for a full 75% mortality rate among salmon trying to pass through them to the sea. They, of all factors, are responsible for the waning runs. Fishermen, too, are responsible for a much higher percentage of salmon mortality than sea lions. The fact is, as I stated in my original letter to Senator Wyden, sea lions and salmon have lived together in natural harmony for millenia. The salmon did not begin declining until humans came, with gill nets and fishing rods, and yes, dams. Senator Wyden ignored that. He finds it more politically expedient to side with industry pressures and scapegoat sea lions, than to really seek an honest solution. I had predicted that our congressional reps would bow to these pressures, I just did not expect Senator Wyden to do so this soon, or this blatantly.

Again, please call and write to him, because it does matter. He can be reached here:

700 NE Multnomah Street
Portland, OR 97232

Telephone: (503)326-7525

How hard can it be? 03.Nov.2006 19:09


Cant someone capture the ladder walking sea lions and remove them to a different area?

Seems like we should be able to do some kind of control - rather than killing

What year is this anyway?

Sea Lions 03.Nov.2006 19:15


Please call Ron Wyden's office. He needs to know that there are people who give a damn out here. If you want to save a life, call.

Scapegoating sea lions is ridiculous 04.Nov.2006 18:46


Ron Wyden has apparently joined the anti-science bozos running this country right now. Along with the idiots who deny global warming, and the dumbasses who would compare tree farms to old growth forests, here comes senator Wyden to tell us that sea lions are causing the extinction of the salmon. This is dangerous lunacy. Because even if you don't love sea lions (and I do), this is still the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. Sea lions have been part of the ecosystem here for thousands of years, and never have the salmon suffered for it. (Oh, individually, sure, but as a species, they have always been made stronger for their relationship with the sea lions.) A scientist would know this. A biologist would know this. In fact, they've repeatedly asserted this. A high school student paying any attention in class would know this. But the power industry, and apparently Mr. Wyden, disagree.

This kind of idiocy is very bad for Oregon. Because a lot of people depend on the fish in the Columbia, as well as a lot of other links in this ecosystem. And Wyden's ignorance of the real cause of the salmon decline means that no real solution will be proposed. Instead, this dumbass would have us sanction the killing of sea lions, while the salmon problem just gets worse. If the sea lions are suppposedly preying on 2% of the salmon, then what about the 75%+ being killed in the turbines of the dams? Does he think we don't know this?? What about the gill nets dragging through the river??? What about the hog lines?

Come on.

And by the way, I've been down on the docks watching the idiot humans haranguing the sea lions. Don't tell ME it's the sea lions becoming "increasingly aggressive" toward humans. It's absolutely the other way around.

SEA LIONS 05.Nov.2006 15:55


dear humans and ron wyden,
i did not put animals on the planet so you could decide which live and witch die. the sea lions only want to live a life like all living creatures do. the salmon are disappearing because they can not get back to their birth place, due to stupid humans screwing up the rivers so they can not get back to their origin. yes call ron wyden. i thought he was better than that

gone for now 19.Jan.2007 16:53


The proposed H.R. 6241 did not pass in 2006 so is dead for now. However, it could be reintroduced again in the new congress, so keep an eye out. It might be a good idea to contact Doc Hastings (R, WA) and Brian Baird (D, WA) were the main sponsors of the bill, along with Norman Dicks (D, WA) and Greg Walden (R, OR), as well as your state and local reps to try to knock some sense into them about sea lions and this disastrous bill.

Not gone 16.Dec.2007 17:39

sea lions

Preliminary permission was granted, last month, for the killing of sea lions to begin as early as this spring. Although the bill seemed to be dead, there are many ways around the law for those who can pay for it.