portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting oregon & cascadia

animal rights

Columbia River Sea Lion Dies in Tacoma after Traumatic Incarceration

A sea lion was killed by its captors today up in Tacoma. Yesterday, it was swimming freely in the Columbia, where its ancestors have been free to swim for thousands of years. But its freedom was taken from it, because it committed the crime of eating salmon, its natural and native prey. (This is an act which humans do with impunity, but for which sea lions are threatened with the death penalty.) While dams and voracious human fishermen drive our salmon toward extinction, the newspapers label sea lions as "salmon scarfing" and promote the myth that it is they, and not us, who are killing off all the salmon. Willful or not, this is ignorance. And today, a sea lion paid for our ignorance with its life.
By now, readers of this site probably know the story, but for those who do not, here is a quick summary. Sea lions are being scapegoated for the salmon crisis. Fishing interests were granted permission to kill sea lions, they say to "save" salmon, but really only to take the heat off so that they can continue to fish the salmon to death for a few more seasons. (For all the reasons why killing sea lions will not save salmon, please see  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2008/04/374150.shtml.) The Humane Society of the United States, Wild Fish Conservancy, and two individuals filed suit in federal court to stop the killing. Judge Michael Mosman refused to issue an injunction halting the killing of sea lions while this legal battle was being fought, claiming that killing living beings did not constitute "irreparable harm." The 9th circuit court of appeals disagreed with Mosman, and granted the injunction last week, which was supposed to protect the sea lions from being killed for now. The battle is far from over: Judge Mosman will be hearing the case soon, probably sometime next month. But for now, for right now, at least, no sea lions were supposed to die. And yet, one has.

They say the death was accidental, that it occurred during a medical examination, and that it could not be helped. They say they are not to blame. But I beg to differ.

In fact, the animals are being trapped on the river and shipped off to what amounts to a life sentence in prison. This was deemed more "humane," and less "irreparable" than shooting them, though depending on the outcome of the next round in court, they could still be shot too. Pray that doesn't happen. In the meantime, the process of trapping and incarcerating the sea lions is traumatic and stressful. They are torn from their natural environment, the only home they have ever known. They are terrorized by loud humans in bright clothing (who have been shooting loud hazing rounds at them for months). They are hauled up from the traps with cranes, then loaded into horse trailers and trucked off to Tacoma. They are left in the trailers all night. In the morning, forklifts come and roughly haul each sea lion from the trailer truck and deposit them at the Point Defiance Zoo, where they are held in a tiny enclosure without so much as a pool of water to keep them comfortable. Here, they are fed an unfamiliar diet, and subjected to medical tests and procedures. In order to handle the sea lions for transfer and tests, they are strong-armed and terrorized. In at least one case, it took 6 people to "handle" one sea lion for tests -- weighing it, jabbing it with needles, drawing blood, getting a urine sample. Imagine how frightening this must be. Imagine the stress and trauma this must cause to an animal as intelligent and wild as these sea lions. Yet staff at Point Defiance are so oblivious to the suffering of the sea lions that several of them actually claimed publicly that the animals "don't seem to mind."

These sea lions are healthy when they arrive here. Steve Jeffries, a biologist with the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife who was charged with their care during this operation, told a Tacoma newspaper that the animals were healthy when they came into his care. "They wouldn't be at Bonneville actively foraging if they weren't," he said. Yet the ordeal of trapping, trucking, and strong-arming them into submission seems to have taken an enormous toll. They say that they do not know what caused this animal, branded B198, to die. But given that it allegedly arrived healthy, and that it is now dead, it's difficult to conclude that its captors were not to blame.

shameful 29.Apr.2008 21:05


Shameful, sick. Keeping them in trailers all night is horrible, let alone the poking & prodding in the morning.

Fish and wildlife departments are not worthy of trust 30.Apr.2008 16:36


ODFW and WDFW get their funding from selling permission to kill fish and other wildlife. How can we trust them to take care of any animals? This is a conflict of interest. They should not be entrusted with managing or protecting any animals either. This plan is stupid and flawed, and no sea lions should be sacrificed to it. Ridiculous.

Who is to blame? 30.Apr.2008 17:15

ODFW, for one.

Just to be clear, the sea lions are being harmed because the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (along with the depts of fish and wildlife in Washington and Idaho) went to the feds and requested permission to do this. They said they wanted to do this in order to "protect" the fish. And yet, here is a plea from this same organization in which they deplore Cascadians to go fishing.  http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/take_me_fishing.asp

"You're an Oregonian," says the ODFW. "Time to go fishing."

Update: More trapping to commence tomorrow 30.Apr.2008 17:34


The departments of fish and wildlife of Oregon and Washington are refusing to hold off on trapping until safer conditions can be guaranteed to the sea lions. They say that they plan to resume trapping tomorrow, in keeping with their schedule of trapping on Mondays and Thursdays. Like the sea lion who died yesterday, they will be yanked off the river with a crane, will be shoved onto the back of a truck and shipped off to Tacoma, will be forklifted off the truck, and will be incarcerated on a hard concrete floor in a tiny enclosure until they are placed in a permanent prison facility.

Please call the following right now to let them know this is not all right.

Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife Director's Office: 503-947-6044

Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife Director's Office: 360-902-2234 (Fax 360-902-2947)

NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service NW Regional Office: 206-526-6150

You can also try the governors of both Oregon and Washington. Governor Kulongoski can be reached here: Governor's Citizens' Representative Message Line

Governor Gregoire can be reached here: (360) 902-4111

Please do make these calls. It's a way to make a difference that is desperately needed. You could save the life of a sea lion. This matters.

Boycott! 30.Apr.2008 19:05


It's the fishing industry and the dams that are killing all of the salmon, and it's the fishing industry that is calling for the killing of sea lions. I say make them pay. If you are a meat eater, boycott all NW seafood. And whether you are a meat eater or not, spread the word to everyone you know: Not one dime of our money should go to pay the profits of those who are causing the salmon crisis and blaming it on the sea lions. NO NW SALMON! NO NW SEAFOOD! Boycott. Hit em where it hurts.