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Sea Lions on the River

Tomorrow is Easter, a day to celebrate the turning of the wheel, from decay to resurrection, from winter to spring, from death to life. And in a fitting salute to this ancient Pagan (yes! Pagan!) holiday, the runs are here: The salmon are pulsing through the river again. Life comes surging into the world again with the spring. And with it come the sea lions, gliding through the water with the salmon, as they have for thousands of years.
I can hear them from my window here, barking and trumpeting from the waters as they lounge along the shore, as they gleefully swirl through the water, as they break the grey-green, splashing surface with their whiskered, dog-like faces. I counted four of them this morning, as I walked along the shore. This is good. This is how the spring goddess comes dancing back into the world: She comes with bright blossoms and soft petals and perfumed air. She comes with singing birds and unfurling fronds and awakening earth. And, here in Cascadia, she comes with the salmon and the sea lion.

But I am worried with the goddess this year, for the salmon, and especially for the sea lions. Because politicians and back-water pundits are beginning to rumble about too many sea lions eating too many salmon again. Plans are being hatched in secret rooms to deal with the "problem" of the sea lions. They're too intelligent for their own good, the scientists say. They can learn and adapt and figure out how to continue to hunt the salmon that they have hunted for millennia, no matter what we do to stop them. And fishermen grumble, because they don't like to share. And politicians start nodding heads, because they don't like it when they're asked to solve a problem that can't be solved without a lot of sacrifices. And solving the slow extinction of the salmon would take a lot of sacrifice. It would take facing the folly of clogging the river with dams. It would take letting deserts be deserts rather than trying to make them into lush, green farmlands. It would take pissing off timber interests and the power industry and corporate agriculture. And it would take listening to the grumbling ignorance of thousands of fishermen. Much easier to just blame the sea lions.

And so, I have heard rumors that lawmakers might seek an end to the protection of the sea lions, granted more than 30 years ago under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and begin allowing sharpshooters to start killing them, especially near the dams. What a desecration that would be. What a sick, life-sucking shame. And what an unnecesary waste.

From where I sit, I can see a long stretch of the river, before it bends around the earth on both sides. I can see the face of a single sea lion bobbing in the water, and I can hear perhaps two more. And, I can see more than 300 fishing boats. Each one bristling with lines in the water. I count 329 of them here, in this one little stretch of the river, before they begin to blend into each other on the horizon. And I can see at least a dozen more fishermen hunched on the shore, waiting. One has an ice chest near his leg, filled with fish. And I wonder. How can they blame the sea lion for the disappearance of the salmon, without turning around and noticing each other? How can we believe that killing the sea lions will ever bring back the salmon, if we can't live in harmony with the beings who share the earth with us? And how can we imagine that the goddess will continue to smile on us, to grant us fertility and fecundity and life, if we keep on slaughtering all her children?

On Easter, please do something for the sea lions. They're as intelligent and gregarious as your dog. They think and feel and desire, and they deserve better than to die as scapegoats for human foibles. Please do what you can to stop the fools from slaughtering them. Educate your lawmakers and your neighbors. Help them to understand that the sea lions are an integral part of the Cascadian ecosystem, and they deserve to be protected.

Down near the docks, I am again starting to see those offensive little bumper stickers. The ones with the sea lion face, fish clenched in its teeth, with a circle and a slash drawn through the sea lion. And I notice that each and every one of those bumper stickers... belongs to a fisherman.

Great Eastre 08.Apr.2007 00:50

Ecotopian Yeti

Blessed Be

sea lions 08.Apr.2007 15:15


And if you're reading this after Easter, do something today to help save the sea lions.

"Salmon Recovery" 08.Apr.2007 22:52

bitter root

The governments (Fed, State, local . . . and, yes, Tribal) burnish their ecology credentials when they promote single issue efforts to keep salmon numbers up in the industrialized rivers systems. They dole out funds for habitat restoration and protection of what remains of habitat, for Rube Goldberg captive propagation schemes not far short of overt fish farming. The agencies joust for fish-friendly operations of the hydropower system. They raise their eco-warrior swords skyward and assert: "Extinction is not an option!" The dirty secret is that the salmon beings are a commodity, "managed" by and for solely the political and legal priorities of the dominant species.

If salmon recovery were to be approached in good faith, the other species would also be part of the the "management." If there are not enough salmon for all my relations, then "salmon recovery" hasn't yet occurred.

Argh! 09.Apr.2007 06:58

Contact people!

Ao far, David wu, Ron Wyden, Gordon Smith, and a handful of other NW politicians are waxing toward allowing sea lions to be martyred for the sins of humanity. PLEASE write and call these people, and anyone else you can tbhink of, to register your support for the sea lions, and your dissent against anyone who would sacrifice them needlessly like that. Try the people at the dept of fish and wildlife too... that's where I'm going next. Even freaking Earl Blumenauer is expressing no support for the sea lions at this time. Let's change this. The sea lions need and deserve a tide of resistance.

Eagles eat salmon too ! 09.Apr.2007 08:15


Eagles eat a lot of salmon, so if this is about protecting salmon , not the wealthy houseboat owners downstream who dont like the sea lions hanging out next to their $100,000 boats, then eagles need to go too. For every sea lion killed , we are going to shoot three eagles. They fly around and steal salmon like they have some God-given right to do so. Their arrogance and indifference is apalling. How fitting that our national bird is a sociopathic , self-centered, salmon-stealing predator that does not give a damn about anyone else. SAVE THE SALMON! KILL ALL BALD EAGLES NOW !
Sincerely, The Sea LIon Jihad

Killer Eagles 09.Apr.2007 08:38


Proof---Google "Eagle with salmon" you get 141,000 picture results alone! Stop the slaughter of our salmon !! Kill these damn eagles asap ! Sea Lion Jihad

They should just feed them. 09.Apr.2007 09:53


They take the easiest meal they can get, thats why they head to the fish ladder in the first place. Feed them the old hatchery fish, secondary catches or old chickens whatever. They could also make the fish ladders more like a natural steam. No blubber insulated seal lion is going to roll its way up a shallow log and rock filled creek for a bit of salmon. The sea lions are using the unnatural fish ladder so its ok to decoy them with food not a perfect solution but it's better than killing.