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Salmon Snatching Fisherman Admits: Killing Sea Lions is About Money, Not "Saving" Salmon

In a rare fit of honesty, a fisherman commenting on the Sea Lion Defense Brigade website has perfectly illustrated why our state is out spending more than a million of our tax dollars to execute sea lions on the Columbia river: It's not about "saving salmon," as the PR spin doctors have suggested. It's about appeasing noisy fishermen who do not want to recover salmon, they simply want to kill more of them.
Photo of Salmon Snatcher from SLDB website
Photo of Salmon Snatcher from SLDB website
An interesting dialogue has ensued on the SLDB website (sealiondefensebrigade.org). On April 20th, a monitoring report was issued which, in part, mentioned the horrific toll that gill netting is taking upon the salmon of the Columbia river. At the end of the report, the author posted a photograph of a local gill net boat christened "Salmon Snatcher." Next to that descriptive name, the boat's owner affixed an anti-sea lion bumper sticker with a drawing of a sea lion with a fish in its mouth and a circle/slash through it. The author of the article noted the irony inherent in a man who kills fish in nets for a living, who has named his boat the "Salmon Snatcher," affixing such a bumper sticker to his boat.

A short time later, the owner of the Salmon Snatcher discovered the article and the photograph, and has been commenting on the website ever since. Watching the interplay between this person and the website's editors has been like a fascinating serial drama: I can hardly wait for the next installment! You can read the article and all of the associated dialogue here:


What becomes immediately clear from reading all of this is that the people who are trying to save sea lions care far more about salmon recovery than the people wanting to kill sea lions. It's also very clear that the sea lion defenders have a much better grasp on the ecology of our region, and the role that predators have to play, than do the fishermen. At least, if the fishermen who are posting there are any indication of what other fishermen think. (Though, to be fair, I have spoken to some fishermen who do understand how important native wildlife is here, and who are very upset about the killing of sea lions. But I have met many others who sound just like the Salmon Snatcher.)

You can read the comments on the SLDB website for yourself, but here is just a sampling:

From the fisherman:

"you guys are pretty retarded. fuck the sealions. gillnetting is not going anywhere. and im gonna shoot every sealion in the face andlaugh and say FUCK! the sealion defense brigade. you guys have no reason to be bagging on gillnetting. i wish a sealion would go to your place of work and fuck with your shit. youd think way differently. get a clue."

Response from SLDB editors:

"[Editor's Note: Well, thank you for that intelligent discourse. And thank you for demonstrating one of our points; That is, that the ODFW's policy of killing native, protected sea lions on the Columbia river is encouraging lawlessness among fishermen like yourself. And these are fishermen, obviously, who already have enough trouble controlling their own violence and aggression. You should know, Joe, that killing sea lions is still against the law for you (probably even for the ODFW, though the courts have not yet decided on that). Further, you should know that you are not very hard to track down, and that you are advocating breaking a law that will land you in jail and hand you a very heavy fine. You are, after all, the owner of a boat registered in the State of Oregon and with the fisheries. Finally, you do realize that the ODFW and the WDFW and the Army Corps of Engineers and NMFS are nervously and carefully monitoring this site, do you not? So I'd be a little more circumspect about your declarations of violence and law-breaking if I were you. But thanks for making some important points about the kind of people who are out there killing all the salmon and screaming about the "need" to kill sea lions. I'm sure the public, in reading this site, will come to their own conclusions about who is making more sense here, and who is unabashedly demonstrating naked self interest.]"

From the fisherman:

"Im trying to make money. nothings going to stop that. kthanksbye"

From the SLDB editors:

"[Ed: Well, I guess you have your priorities in order, then. As long as we're clear, here: You are not interested in saving salmon. You are only interested in killing more of them for money. And this is why you want to kill sea lions. Not to save salmon, but to make more money without the inconvenience of having to share your catch with those who actually *belong* on the river. Thanks, once again, for very clearly making a point for us. We have been saying, all along, that the fishermen's demand to kill sea lions is not about "saving" salmon and only the most disingenuous soul would ever try to make that claim. Are you reading this, Mr. Hargrave?]"

(That last sentence is a pointed barb directed at ODFW spokesman Rick Hargrave, who has attempted to sell this program to the public as being about salmon recovery, rather than about scapegoating sea lions so that his agency can continue to make money off fishing licenses and tags, and so that they can get some juicy federal matching funds for this in a time when most state budgets are being slashed due to the downward spiraling economy. Obviously, for the fishermen and for Mr. Hargrave's agency, the ability to scapegoat sea lions has been a monetary windfall, as taxpayers continue to subsidize the fishing industry.)

There are also some interesting ecology lessons in the continuing exchange. For example, after the Salmon Snatcher declared that sea lions need to be removed because they "serve no purpose" and "have no need to live," the SLDB editors carefully explain the role of natural predators in the ecology of our region. Here is part of that response:

"From an ecological and scientific perspective, rather than a bizarrely self centered perspective, the sea lions serve a much greater purpose than you do. The sea lions fill the important niche of natural predator. So when the fish come swarming up into the Columbia, bringing great biomass circulating in from the oceans of the world, they are here for the survival of their own species, as well as for the survival of the entire ecosystem. When a sea lion or other predator eats a fish, they nourish themselves, and their species. And they also nourish the entire system -- you've seen this for yourself. When a sea lion eats a fish, you see birds flocking around the scene, gobbling up whatever the sea lion does not swallow. Under the water, the same scene is playing out, with fish and micro-organisms eating up whatever is left. The birds and the fish and the microorganisms then carry that biomass off to other places, where it is shared again and again throughout the system.

"Studies have been done on other large predators - specifically, bears - in which it was discovered that their predation upon the salmon fed and nourished the entire forest surrounding the rivers. From the insects that eat the bears' dung to the fertilization of the soil, the salmon bring life to the region and the predators are the ones who help distribute that biomass. Sea lions fill that role, so that their purpose, aside from just living their lives as you and I are doing, is also to ensure the very survival of the planet upon which we depend for life.

"So you see, the fact that you are ignorant of the "purpose" of another living being does not mean that it does not have one. As for yourself, when you fish, you do it for money and not for life. You take and take and take from the river, and you give nothing back. None is left to nourish the system, and so the system is made weaker and weaker from your presence. You, my friend, are a parasite. You need to find another way to make your profit. You need to find a better "purpose" for your life than simply taking what you can get without a thought given to the other living beings who share this planet with you."

In the end, it is clear from the entire exchange that the fisherman is simply out for money, and doesn't care if his nets wipe out the salmon and cause their extinction. He tells readers, again and again, that the reason he does not like sea lions is that they cut into his profits, and he states again and again that he will never stop gill netting, no matter how endangered the salmon are.

If you had any doubts, this will clear them up for you. Again, you can read the entire exchange (including any new additions, which I await with baited breath) here:

There are lots of other good articles on the site as well. The bottom line here is that Oregonians care about native wildlife, both salmon and sea lions are native wildlife, and the people who are about defending sea lions are much more concerned about BOTH species than are the people who are out for sea lion blood. Let's end the killing on the Columbia now. It's time.

I went and... 02.May.2009 10:19

here's my favorite exchange

I like this exchange the best:

"Iam the owner of the F/V Salmon Snatcher, i dont appriciate you guys putting me on this website harrasing me about how i named my boat, i dont liek you guys or this website or sealions. i think if you want to see sealions lets transfer them somewhere in the middle of the united states in a big zoo. away from the columbia river. we have people trying to make a living, and we cant do so if there are all the sealions and birds eating our profits. its outradgious how viscious these animals are. there ruthless. ive had on try and attack me before when im trying to pick my net. we have to do something to stop them. if you had a sealion ripping up all your paper work at your desk job wouldnt you want it stopped also?" [sic]

"[Editor's Note: Joe, we don't really appreciate you and your nets out on the river killing anything that comes across your path, either. The Columbia river, the salmon, the birds, the sea lions, and your neighbors DO NOT OWE YOU A LIVING. You are not owed a living off the lives and blood of others. And just to be clear, here, Joe, who is out on the river killing whom? Are sea lions out there killing fishermen? No. Other way around, my friend. That makes YOU the aggressor, not the sea lions. Now, let me ask you. If someone were trawling through your kitchen, grabbing food off your plate, killing your children, and trying to throw you out of your own home, wouldn't you want it stopped also? I think you would. That's how the sea lions feel about your presence on the river.

So no offense, Joe, but frankly, if you don't want us to display the ironies, inconsistencies, and ridiculousness inherent in your self-centered worldview, don't make it so easy for us.]"