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Another day in court for the sea lions

The 9th circuit court of appeals will hear the appeal in the case to stop the killing on the Columbia today.
Last year, a judge in Portland declared that killing sea lions did not constitute "irreparable harm," and that sea lions killing 1% to 4% of salmon from the spring run is having a "significant impact" upon salmon recovery while fishermen killing upwards of 13% of salmon from the spring run is having "no significant impact" upon salmon recovery. As a result of that decision, many sea lions died last year. The "official" death toll was horrific enough, but we are learning from researchers on the coast that the unofficial toll was even more unbearable. Apparently, the moment that the government declared it legal for their henchmen to kill sea lions on the Columbia, the rapacious fishermen took it to mean open season on all sea lions. While at least 100 sea lions are illegally shot and killed by fishermen every year on this river (and at least a thousand others are caught in their nets and killed), that number skyrocketed last year. The ODFW, the agency responsible for the killing, has done nothing to stop this.

It seems we have come to the place in our history where we have so impacted the ecosystems upon which we all depend, and we have so decimated every fish run on earth, that we are now fighting in the water and in court against all native predators for the last few salmon. In order to make room for human predation, wildlife managers seem to feel entitled to remove all other predators from the system. (Cormorants and terns are next on their list. They've already pretty much destroyed the grizzly bears and most other natural predators.)

I hold out little hope for any solution through the "justice" system. I have simply watched this system at work for far too long now. I know who it works for, and who it does not work for. There's a lot of money in the fishing industry, a lot of profit to be made on the bodies of dead salmon - so long as those salmon are killed by humans, and not by sea lions.

Early on, we had hope that a court of law, for God's sake, would see reason. It's very clear to any thinking being that it makes no sense for an agency to determine that natural predators, eating %2 of the run, must be killed for having a "significant impact" upon a species with whom they have co-evolved, while that same agency determined that humans can kill 13% of the same fish species without having any negative impact. (And that dams can kill 75% of the run, and that's acceptable and necessary.) But justice is blind, indeed, I suppose. Because what I saw argued out in court last year was not truth, but a game. A game of jargon and technicalities, played by smug humans, while real lives were at stake in the river.

It hasn't just been this case that has educated many of us on the realities of the system. After the killing began last year, the Sea Lion Defense Brigade learned that the ODFW had violated the law and the letter of authority granting them permission to kill sea lions. They had trapped and were holding the wrong animal. He was a sea lion whom they believed was on their list, but a more careful read by people who actually cared about the lives of these animals showed clearly that he was not on the list of animals they had permission to kill. When confronted with their error, the ODFW quickly concocted a cover-up, pretending that he was really a different animal who WAS on their list. SLDB members spent sleepless nights combing through every scrap of evidence, and found inescapable proof of the cover-up. We were able to prove that the ODFW was lying, and that the animal they were holding was NOT on the list of animals they were authorized to kill. We asked them to set this animal, "Willy," free and they refused. So we took them to court.

In that case, the judge never even considered the evidence - in fact, apparently never even saw the evidence. Instead, she ruled that animals do not have standing, and on technicality, that animal's life was handed over to the ODFW.

So, you see, I hold no illusions about "Truth" or "Justice" being found in a courtroom, today or any other. The best we can do for today is pray that the parsing of lives and the mincing of words in this nonsensical game at least fall on the side of the sea lions today, for once.