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Sea Lion Bus Demo Report Back

What a great day for standing up for the sea lions! With the sun shining on us, animal advocates packed the bus called Cool and headed down to Salem today. We came from all over Cascadia -- from Portland, from Eugene, from St Helens, from Colton, from Beavercreek, and from other communities across Oregon. As there was only supposed to be room for 25 on the bus, we had to squeeze together close to fit 30 on board, and others had to make their own way there in separate cars. We went down to the capital to make our voices heard on behalf of some of the most oppressed residents in all of Cascadia. We went to speak up for the sea lions of the Columbia.
Surrounding ODFW
Surrounding ODFW
Dead Bald Eagle in ODFW Lobby
Dead Bald Eagle in ODFW Lobby
ODFW Kills
ODFW Kills
Capitol Steps
Capitol Steps
We began with an hour-long demonstration at ODFW headquarters. The ODFW is the Oregon state agency responsible for killing the sea lions. They're spending more than a million Oregon taxpayer dollars on this mis-guided program, at the same time that services are being cut to senior citizens, people with disabilities, and children. (Washington State residents are spending an additional $1 million plus on their half of the killing.) They've admitted that the best they can hope for from this program is that it might, perhaps, be "marginally" helpful. More likely, it will not be effective at all. Because, as we all know, it is not the sea lions who are driving the salmon into extinction. It is us.

In any event, when we arrived, a small delegation went inside to inquire whether there might be anyone willing to talk with us about our concerns. We were politely told that there was no one there, at the ODFW headquarters, in a decision-making position. They were all elsewhere for the day. This was especially interesting, because the ODFW had known for weeks that we were planning to visit them on this day. Can they really be so afraid of the truth?

While inside the hallowed, and taxpayer-funded halls of the ODFW, we had quite an eye opening experience: This agency, whose mission statement claims it's all about "protecting" wildlife, has a lobby that would make any trophy hunter proud. You're seriously not going to believe this. The lobby was jammed with dead, stuffed, animal trophies. There were two giant, dead, elk heads above the door on either side. There was an entire, stuffed, dead, bear crouched along one wall. On the other side of a glass wall, there was a big, stuffed, dead, mountain goat. In a plexi-glass case on the floor in one corner, there was a dead turkey. And most alarming and ironic of all, right in front of the entrance way, we found a great, dead, eagle. Of all things! The ODFW has a dead bald eagle in their doorway! It was shockingly inappropriate and strangely fitting all at the same time.

After shooting some photographs of this bizarre display, we walked back outside to find most of our party engaged in spirited cheering. One person, though, was standing off to the side talking to a man who had come out of the ODFW building shortly before we did. I later found out that the man was actually very supportive of our cause. He held a very dim view of the policies of the ODFW, and did not believe they should be killing sea lions any more than we did.

Since the entrance way was secluded from the public, we elected to march out to the street in front of the building instead. We lined the streets at the intersection leading into the agency's property. The purpose of this part of our itinerary was to raise public awareness that the ODFW is unnecessarily murdering the animals they are supposed to be "protecting." We spent a raucous hour cheering, chanting, and holding signs. The people in hundreds of passing cars honked, waived, and shouted their support. Out of all the people we encountered, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

After an hour of that, we marched back to the front of the ODFW building for a family photo, and then we all loaded back onto the bus and went to the capitol. We'd heard that the No-LNG folks were also going to be there today, so it was a thrill to see the LNG hearing packed, wall to wall, with people fighting the LNG plant and pipeline proposed to run along the Columbia. (This issue is intimately related to our own struggle: Anyone who really cares about saving salmon should be fighting tooth and nail against the wanton destruction of salmon habitat that would result from the proposed LNG plant. This is a much more effective way to save salmon than killing natural predators.)

At the capitol building, some of us went inside to talk to legislators, while others rallied outside. We handed out fliers and educated the public about the sea lions and the salmon, and how Oregon tax dollars are being wasted. Most people we encountered were outraged, both at the killing of native sea lions, and at the tremendous waste of tax money.

They should be outraged. And they should be especially outraged to learn, as we did, that Governor Kulongoski himself initially supported the killing of sea lions, and that he signed off on the program himself. In other words, C578 and C579, beloved friends, were put to death because he signed on the dotted line. I wonder if he will continue to support this, now that the budget is being slashed, and a million dollars is being blatantly flushed down the ODFW loo. Taxpayers may reasonably wonder why the governor would ever support such an extravagant waste of resources at a time when so many important public services are being cut.

A small delegation met with the governor's Natural Resources Policy Advisor to discuss this matter. A key point in that discussion: If we're going to foot the bill for a million dollar salmon recovery plan, at the very least, we ask that this money be spent on something that will actually work to restore salmon. We cannot be trying to wipe out natural predators when we know that this has never worked, ever, in the history of wildlife management. Why not, instead, address the real problems behind the salmon crisis? Why not, for example, STOP the FISHING? (In the first four days of this month, fishermen killed more than four thousand salmon. That's more than a thousand fish per day. Coincidentally, the sea lions stand accused of eating roughly four thousand fish at Bonneville dam, in an entire year. So sea lions are being put on a death list for the crime of collectively killing four thousand salmon per year, while human fishermen get away with killing that many fish in only four days. And the ODFW claims that they're "managing" everything else, so now they simply "must" manage the sea lions? Why not just cut the fishing season by a few days, to make up for whatever the sea lions are eating at the dam? Wouldn't that make more sense? Wouldn't that be more fiscally responsible? Indeed it would.

After meeting with my own legislators, I went outside to find our number growing. People who had not come down with us were picking up some of our signs and sitting with us on the steps of the capitol. I spoke with one man who said that he has gone out to Astoria on many occasions to see the sea lions, and that he was horrified to learn that the government is scapegoating and killing them for no reason. He noted that sea lions are so intelligent that the US Navy employs them in war games, and mentioned that he thought it was a sin to hurt animals who are that smart. I talked with another person who had come down for the LNG hearing. She said that she could not believe anyone would think killing sea lions is an appropriate way to respond to the salmon decline.

So this was our day in Salem, from my perspective. (Others who were there, feel free to add your own thoughts.) After everyone came back from meeting with legislators, we boarded the bus and headed for home. Once back at the IDA haus, we shared a vegan barbecue and a keg of fabulous home-brewed ale. Thanks to all the people who came to speak up for the sea lions today! Thanks to the radical cheerleaders, and to the person who donated the vegan dogs (you know who you are), thanks to Steve for driving the bus, and thanks to Matt Rossell for staying up night after night for the sea lions.

homepage: homepage: http://sealiondefensebrigade.org

More Photos 17.Apr.2009 08:06


It was a real pleasure for Oregon Wildlife Federation to be part of this great group of people who love animals and the entire planet.
Children for sealions
Children for sealions
Radical cheerleaders in front of the ODFW
Radical cheerleaders in front of the ODFW
Highway visbility
Highway visbility

Seems only fair 17.Apr.2009 08:35

Wendy B Fair

If ODFW is just an extension, or lobby for, the "sport" fishermen and hunters, then why are the taxpayers burdened with the cosof the operation of this bloated bureaucracy? It seems meet that they should be funded solely from fees and donations from those whom they represent, just as is their errand boy, Senator Fred Girod.

The sea lions should be killed 17.Apr.2009 09:01


What are you protesting for? Save the sea lions and kill all of the salmon and sturgeon.... In case you don't know, the sealions have invaded the area around Bonneville and are pillaging Endangered Species.... They also kill sturgeon that are reproducing in those areas. Sea lions belong in the ocean, not 50 plus miles up a frsh water river.

I don't think anyone at this little protest has a clue what they are talking about... Do some research prior to protesting that we save a sealion so that they can kill native runs of salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon..

That really makes a lot of sense.

More pictures! 17.Apr.2009 09:13


Here are some more pictures from the day.

Response to Mike 17.Apr.2009 11:09


Mike, thank you for giving me the opportunity to clear up your misconceptions. As a person who cares about fishing on the Columbia, you really owe it to yourself to be fully informed about this, because having the wrong information will have a direct impact upon your fishing opportunities.

Believe me, Mike, those of us who planned this demonstration have done a great deal of research into this issue -- some of us for many years. You might be surprised to learn how different the situation is out on the Columbia than you have been led to believe. Here are the facts.

First, the sea lions have not "invaded" the area below Bonneville dam. They are merely returning there, finally, after the Marine Mammal Protection Act ended the killing spree that lasted for more than a hundred years, and virtually exterminated every last seal and sea lion on the entire Columbia. Prior to that time, seals and sea lions were a very common sight here, at one time even all year round. This is a natural part of a healthy ecosystem, and the return of sea lions to the area is one thing that we've actually gotten right -- it's at least one little part of the riverine ecosystem beginning to return to normal.

Remember, Mike, that before there was a dam, there was a formidable falls, where seals, sea lions, bears, birds, and humans gathered to hunt for fish. Since the whole river system was healthier then, there were literally tens of millions of salmon at that time, despite all the seals and sea lions and bears and birds and humans (humans who, at that time, fished for sustenance rather than profit, and so fished much more sustainably than they do today). If sea lions were a problem, there would not have been tens of millions of fish then. Simple reasoning.

Second, Mike, did you know that anglers killed more than four thousand fish in only FOUR DAYS, from the 1st though the 4th of this month? That's more than a THOUSAND FISH PER DAY. Did you know that, over the years that the Army Corps of Engineers has been monitoring sea lion predation at Bonneville dam, the sea lions have consistently been observed eating 4000 fish annually, over the course of the entire year? This means, Mike, that fishermen like you killed more fish in four days than the sea lions kill at Bonneville dam in an entire year. So if you want to save salmon, Mike, perhaps you want to talk to your friends and get them, and yourself, to stop killing so many of them. Because, in only four days, you could have saved more fish than are killed by sea lions at the dam ALL YEAR LONG, if yall had just stopped killing fish for FOUR DAYS. Oh, and get this, Mike. The source where I got this information? It's from last week's Columbia Basin Bulletin, a PRO-fishing publication. So this isn't something we just "made up" to support our agenda. This comes right from your side. Here's the citation:  http://www.cbbulletin.com/329321.aspx.

So you see, Mike, the problem with the salmon is not the sea lions. It's you.

Regarding sturgeon, Mike, did you know that the sea lions being killed by ODFW do not actually eat sturgeon? There are two species of sea lions found on the Columbia river, Mike. These are Zalophus californianus, commonly known as the California sea lion, and Eumetopias jubatus, commonly known as the Steller sea lion. Both are native to this region, and both have always traveled up the river with the runs. The species being targeted for death by the ODFW is the California sea lion. While California sea lions do eat salmon, they do not eat sturgeon to speak of. (They do eat pike minnow and other invasive fish species that kill off salmon, so they actually help salmon survival in that respect.) It is the Steller sea lions who eat sturgeon. (A note here: No wonder you are confused by this. The corporate media consistently punctuates their stories about sea lions with images of "California sea lions eating salmon" that are actually images of Steller sea lions eating sturgeon.)

Of the sturgeon who are consumed by sea lions, more than 95% of them are eaten by Steller sea lions, not California sea lions.

The ODFW does not have permission to hurt Steller sea lions, and they will not get this permission. The reason is that Steller sea lions are listed under the Endangered Species Act. They are dying due to over-fishing. Many are killed in fishermen's nets, and many simply cannot reproduce because fishermen have killed off all the fish. Here's an interesting report for you to read, Mike, about how fishermen killed so many fish that the sea lions are dying:  http://www.earthjustice.org/library/factsheets/stellar_general.pdf.

While we're on the subject, Mike, did you know that over-fishing is causing the collapse of virtually every fish stock in the entire world? Did you know that the journal Science published a peer reviewed study that projects the collapse of all the world's fish stock by 2048, if current rates of over-fishing... by HUMANS... are not stopped? And did you know, Mike, that sea lions and salmon co-existed in the oceans and on the Columbia river for more than ten thousand years, with no problem at all for the survival of the salmon, or for any other fish species? Whereas it has only taken fishermen like yourself barely more than a single century to drive the salmon down from tens of millions to less than 1% of their original numbers?

Did you know all that, Mike? If you are only getting your "information" from your fishing buddies and the ODFW, you are not getting all the facts you need to make informed decisions about what is best for the salmon and the sturgeon. Because your fishing buddies, and the ODFW, have a very vested interest in pointing their fingers away from their own ecologically bad behavior, and instead scapegoating natural predators who have nothing to do with the salmon crisis or the sturgeon decline.

I guess what I'm saying, Mike, is that I think you need to "Do some research prior to repeating the crap your fishing buddies come up with, so that they can kill native runs of salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon."

The after party 17.Apr.2009 11:36


Here are some pics from the after-event vegan barbecue at IDA.
MMM! Vegan dogs!
MMM! Vegan dogs!
Despite the eyebrow singing incident...
Despite the eyebrow singing incident...
Here's where the cool people ate....
Here's where the cool people ate....

more pictures 17.Apr.2009 20:57


I thought this might be a good time to look at a few more pictures of the demonstration.

Two more pictures 17.Apr.2009 21:01


Just two more pictures of the day.