Part II. Killing Columbia River Sea Lions is not the Answer


By Ed Johnson
California Sea Lion

California Sea Lions

This is a continuation of my blog of June 30 which was the result of testimony provided to US House of Rep. Hearing before the SUBCOMMITTEE ON FISHERIES, WILDLIFE, OCEANS AND INSULAR AFFAIRS, held June 14, 2011 on House Resolution (HR) 946 which if passed would allow killing of sea lions as a means of helping to restore Columbia River salmon runs.  In particular Sharon Young representing Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) made a rather brilliant presentation which is most worthy of your reading. I will include her concluding statement, followed by my own comments on additional factors that should be more fully explored before this lethal solution is implemented.  Sharon Young on HR 946, “In closing, we believe that this proposed legislation is not only unnecessary but potentially dangerous.  It is unnecessary because the number of sea lions at the Dam is down.  Their residency time at the Dam is reduced.  The percentage of fish in the run that are eaten has declined each year for the past four years even as the percentage of the same fish killed by fishermen has risen.  Moreover, other sources of salmon mortality, such as hydropower operations, ocean fisheries and the management of hatchery programs, have not been adequately addressed. In some cases, such as the stocking of non-indigenous fish for recreational purposes, the severe negative impacts to salmon have not been addressed at all.  Sea lions come and go throughout the river throughout the season—it is not a situation in which there is only a handful of predators that can easily be eliminated and thus eliminate predation. As the lethal program of the past 3 years has shown, the percentage of predation-related salmon mortality and the size of salmon runs remain independent of sea lions were killed in a given year.  Killing sea lions wastes time and money and lives and does little to benefit the salmon. But we are also concerned that this bill has less apparent dangers inherent in its language.  It would sacrifice public involvement and transparency in the name of speed.  It sets a dangerous precedent of exempting a controversial wildlife management program from National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) analysis.  It also sets the stage for a return to the vigilante action against sea lions that existed prior to the 1972 passage of the MMPA when the states employed professional shooters in the river and members of the public killed seals and sea lions out of frustration or for sport.  We oppose H.R. 946 and urge you to vote against it.”  http://naturalresources.house.gov/UploadedFiles/YoungTestimony06.14.11.pdf  The complete hearing on HR 946 can be found at:  http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=244930

The seven page testimony makes clear and concise arguments using data from documents previously submitted as well as an item by item referencing to the specific articles within section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) that will be violated if House Resolution (HR) 946 is passed. A point that was totally lacking in reviews written by the popular press as well as internet coverage was their failure to expose passage would severally restrict public input when such matters are subsequently considered. This would be totally contrary to what Congress had intended when the MMPA Act was passed in 1972.

Cannon Beach, Oregon, with Haystack Rock on th...

Image via Wikipedia

For the past forty years I have lived very near the Pacific Ocean in Cannon Beach, OR., and on occasion have witnessed dead sea lions at the shoreline. Recently after the occurrence of several dead pinnipeds I contacted local field workers from the Marine Mammal Strand Network to find what they had determined as the cause of death. Too often the response was gunshot wounds. MS. Young made reference to “vigilante” acts of the past but I am here to tell you that although marine mammals are protected, fishermen will continue to take whatever action deemed necessary to preserve what they consider their rightful catch. I mention this because these acts are purely in violation of the law under MMPA and offenders should be prosecuted, however enforcement is mostly impossible to this point in time. HS 946 would be a further intrusion on local sea-lion populations and only encourage continuation and potentially expanding rogue killings by threatened fishermen.

When man intrudes and makes changes nature generally reacts with some form of counter balancing. In the Columbia River, its estuary and the ocean beyond, we find this issue playing itself out. Killing sea lions may seem to be a solution however nature seems to be providing solutions that will be mentioned. Dredging of the Columbia from its mouth to Portland is an ongoing process which has resulted huge amounts of sand that must be deposited. The result has been the creation of off channel islands that became perfect habitat for birds. Caspian terns unheard of in this area 40 years ago have created one of the world’s largest colonies for that species, 16,000 last year. A number that has been rather stable for over ten years until this season when that number dropped by at least 4,000. What happened was the realization by raptors, primarily bald eagles and to a lesser degree falcons and owls, that an excessive population existed which has meant lunch. Terns, the Caspian variety, required on the order of some 300-700 salmon smolts per bird during breeding season, and have created a management problem, like sea lions. Rather than dealing with the evolvement of those strategies, will indicate what happened this year based on the presences of the previously mentioned raptors. They have patrolled the air ways and destroying nests, and with the aid of gulls eating the eggs apparently no terns have hatched, up to 6,000 nests destroyed! (note  read ,http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2011/06/on_east_sand_island_at_the_mou.html for the more information including a video). I realize that my picture lacks cormorants and brown pelicans which are part of the above story, but my focus was on a predator prey relationship operating in the natural world rather than man invoking his traditional hammer, lethal force and gunning down innocent  seals. It appears that

Bald Eagle

Image by Јason via Flickr

Bald Eagles   are for this year the balancing force which could increase the desired salmon runs and have not been mentioned in any aspect of House Resolution 946.

A second factor includes Bald Eagles and pinnipeds. Local coastal explores have found cases where local populations of pinnipeds after having birthed offspring only to have their young attacked and devoured by Bald Eagles, leaving only skeletal remains. The exact species of pinniped was not identified but the possibility that again a predator relationship is being established which has long-term consequences on sea-lion populations. Sharon Young in her testimony before the House SUBCOMMITTEE ON FISHERIES, WILDLIFE, OCEANS AND INSULAR AFFAIRS, indicated that only a limited number of options had been considered before coming to the decision of killing sea lions as the solution to increase salmon runs. Here again we have an apparent exploding population of Bald Eagles along the Northern coast of Oregon and along the Columbia that is involved in the recent dynamics of species. The consequences should be in the mix before HR 946 is acted upon.

My final inclusion is that of Killer Whales,off shore and transient populations, who traditionally hunt pinnipeds, which is another example of controlling excess sea lion populations, if in fact such a thing really does exist. In my first post on this topic, https://championsforcetaceans.com/2011/06/30/save-columbia-river-sea-lions/, I made the connections among overfishing, declining sea lion populations and orca predation which had taken place in Alaskan waters. Sharon Young did not present any information that indicated Killer Whales could be any part of the solution. What she did testify was that other solutions existed short of killing sea lions as the solution. Please let congress know that HR 946 is not the answer and its foundation will be to the detriment of marine mammals as well as the public’s right to be involved in decisions impacting the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Save Columbia River Sea Lions


California sea lion

Image via Wikipedia

By Edward Johnson

Killing Sea Lions below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia river is not the answer.

During the past month I have tried several times to write a post on the proposed killing of the California sea lions who  have the audacity to consume fish from their territorial Columbia River. During my searches I continue to find overwhelming objective data that supports allowing these marine mammals to do what they do the best, fish. Thankfully, the Humane Society United States (HSUS) continues to be the backbone of opposition to this unnecessary slaughter by employing a more than qualified person to search out the truth and present the facts relative to this issue, Sharon Young Marine Issues Field Director HS. The arguments she made in Support of the Sea Lions before the US House subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs are compelling. The subcommittee was chaired by State of Washington Congressmen Doc Hastings. Not only is he chairmen of the committee but he along with fellow congressional representative from Washington State, Norm Dicks, co-sponsored H.R. 946 (which would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972) to allow the Secretary of Commerce to grant permits for the “lethal taking of California Sea Lions.”

You may ask what has changed since 1972 that would allow tossing out a part of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in exchange for brutal force. Federal protection as often is the case; can enable  a decimated species to regenerate it’s  populations and eventually flourish. Thanks to federal protection the number of sea lions has increased. In the 1920’s seal lion populations off the west coast were decimated to a population in the thousands,  due to fur harvesting.  Today the sea lions numbers have increased to almost  three-hundred-thousand thanks to conservation efforts and federal protection.

Unlike the California seal lion whose populations have recovered, the Alaskan sea lions numbers have continued to decrease. Several factors seem contributing to their demise due to the over fishing of two species, cod and mackerel. In that situation, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed very restricted fisheries to helping the Alaskan sea-lion populations to recover. Some suggest that killer whales are the culprits as their diet now includes sea lions because the whale populations are so depleted.  I mention over fishing and the plight of the Alaskan sea-lion because there are similarities. Could over fishing on the West Coast be a factor driving the sea lions up the Columbia River?In essence we have dichotomies within nearly adjoining waters with the same agency NOAA and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in the cross hairs of controversy.

I mentioned Sharon Young Marine Issues Field Director HS earlier.  Included is her objective data and profound observations, to help convince any doubters of her arguments, and objections to the slaughter of the Columbia sea lions. If only the members of HSUS which number 23 million would come on board and bombard their Congressional representatives, this House resolution would quickly disappear. In the meantime I have reviewed her testimony and will high light significant points that she made before the subcommittee. She was a member of the pinniped (seals) task force which that  made recommendations on salmon predation prevention. From the outset of her five-page rendering she made it clear that the problem of declining salmon runs had little to do with the sea lions and more to do with loss of habitat and poor management practices. Solidly grounded arguments made by Young demonstrated the impact of 1) hatchery fish,  2) the intentional introduction of non-native species, Walleye, and 3) fisheries both sport and commercial as mitigating and contributing factors to the slow recovery of salmon runs. She completely discounts the contention that the sea lions are an active threat to Columbia River salmon populations. Passage of HR 946 will not only allow “vigilante,” style killing of the sea lions, but will also undermine the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

When looking at the mainstream media coverage of this hearing, agency folks made the mistake of trying to establish the presence of sea lions on the Columbia River as a recent occurrence rather than citing the truth, that the California sea lions were first observed by Lewis and Clark on their famed visit to the Pacific Northwest 200 years ago. At one time the sea lions terminal point for migration was Cello Falls, some 180 miles upstream. Indian fisheries at these sacred falls witnessed seal lions the Columbia river,  and shared their catch with these fish hunters.  Today the journey of the sea lions ends at Bonneville dam, as it obstructs their natural migration.

Young used information submitted by NOAA and the Army Corp of engineers to piece together data that validated her contention that sea lion consumption of salmon had not changed, and may have even declined on a percentage bases. The number of returning salmon has increased leaving the quota by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFs), “Overall abundance of Chinook and steelhead potentially impacted by pinniped predation [has] increased or stayed the same since the last status review was conducted prior to 2005.” Using their figures she denotes the percentage decline of predation over the last three years stating with 4.2 percent in 2007 when the states’ first applied to kill sea lions; in 2008, the predation rate was 2.9 percent of the run; in 2009, it was 2.4 percent of the run; and in 2010 it was only 2.2 percent of the run. Preliminary wrap-up report for 2011 summarizing seal lion predation on the Columbia River, states that an estimated 1.4 percent of the run was consumed. The goal was to have been 1% and this year WITHOUT KILLING A SINGLE SEA LION THE GOAL WAS NEARLY ACHIEVED! On total numbers of fish consumed the government argues that the raw numbers have increased seven fold since 2000, when actually the percentage of the run consumed is the lowest since 2002.  As you can see we are witnessing another shell game at the expense of a potential death sentence for long term river residents.
sea lion

Please visit the following link and sign this petition:

“Save Our Sea Lions” 

http://www.change.org/petitions/save-our-sea-lions

Brutal Canadian Seal Hunt 2011 Harp Seal, Grey Seal Kill Quota Increased


By Kirsten Massebeau


It is hard to imagine that just a week from now if not sooner seal pups like the baby pictured on the left will be literally hacked, beaten, and then skinned alive. It makes me wonder about the word human, and humane. Is man even capable of caring for the beautiful things of the earth without wanting to consume or destroy them? Was man ever able to appreciate beauty like that of harp and gray seals without wanting to wear their skin? This year 300,00 harp seal babies and 60,000 gray seals will be brutally skinned alive. The sale of seal products is banned in most places. Thanks to China though the seal molesters will still have a market. It is amazing that year after year the world sits by while Canada does the unthinkable. My first question is always what can I do? My intention with today’s post was t0 list several ways your voice can be heard.  Follow the link below and contact  the Prime Minister of Canada  Stephen Harper and ask him to the brutal slaughter of these babies and their mothers. Tell him that you will boycott all Canadian cold water seafood until the seal hunt ends. http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/contact.asp Follow the link below and tell the Red Lobster to stop buying Canadian Seafood until the Seal Hunt is ended! http://www.redlobster.com/contact_us/

Canadian Seal Hunt The Odette Leblanc Collection: They say the following about their products: “Composed of a complete line of very unique seal fur products.. Ranging from small accessories to full length coats, you will surely find the ideally suited item you’ve been looking for or even been dreaming about owning!” Odette Leblanc 022 chemin de l’école Rd. Pointe-aux-Loups, Îles de la madeleine PQ G4T 8B1 Tel: 418-969-9385 E-mail: Use form at http://www.odetteleblanc.com/index.php?option=com_contact&view=contact&id=1 Petit Nord: They sell childrens seal fur hats, boots, mittens. E-mail: Use form at http://www.petitnord.com/documents/contact_request.html Main office: Toppevadvej 7, Søsum DK-3670 Veksø Sj. Denmark Phone: +45 44852050 Fax:     +45 44852051 web:  www.petitnord.com Pajar: Makes/sells sealskin boots. Pajar 4509 Coloniale Avenue Montreal, Quebec, Canada. H2T 1V8 www.pajar.com Tel.: 514-844-3067 Toll free: 1-888-667-2527 Fax: 514-844-3066 E-mail: pajar@pajar.com Don’t they deserve our help? IMG_3941-aw

Nuclear Power vs. Marine Mammal Sustainability


By Edward Johnson
A nuclear power plant damaged during the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The authorities in Japan say that the damage done at the plants may include a partial meltdown on the reactors.
Today’s news proclaims that thankfully favorable winds are safely taking all airborne nuclear plant bye products away from land and out to sea. In my previous blog we asked for a time of healing, on that score nothing has changed. However since Champions for Cetaceans originated out of our passionate concern over marine mammals, we now rise on their behalf.  What remains in harm’s way, which includes our aircraft carriers, spending their nuclear power to evade deadly radioactive fallout, is the ocean itself. The wealth of this planet would be little without the ocean, its creatures, our source of food and most of the oxygen we breathe.  Our own origins can be traced to the sea and as I long ago learned, “Ontology recapitulates phylogeny,” or the history a given species(ontology) repeats the species which it  preceded(phylogeny}. Fifty million years ago, what we today recognize as marine mammals were terrestrial, living on land.  Slowing but surely they realized the benefits of water and the enormous bounty it could provide. In this they have developed capacities which are superior to humans their mammalian brethren.

I have a long history of opposing nuclear power and the events of the past few days have only reconfirmed that position.  My beliefs are based on the following considerations: 1) Small is Beautiful and they are not. In that matter we as a society are way too unarmored by instant gratification. Basically these nuclear driven plants split atoms with the release of a huge amount of energy which boils water and the steam turns turbines resulting in electricity. These large plants employ relatively few people and are owned by wealthy corporations that control the market place. On this day would venture a guess that these industrial giants have flooded the floors of Congress with money and resources to keep their programs alive. If you believe that bigger, faster, sooner is desirable then nuclear we go…but not me. 2)  When these plants malfunction based on some form of demise whether it is human operational error, inferior design, terrorists instigation, aging equipment, or natural disaster, we the people are responsible and will incur all recovery costs relative to damages and destruction. Lloyds of London the ultimate insurer of questionable undertakings, no longer will write policies and cover liability. In this country a growing portion of these nuclear facilities our owned by multi-national corporations, and they will walk the plank leaving our government responsible when disaster strikes. 3)  How much of our precious water can we allow to be wasted while these mega corporations continue to consume this commodity in ever increasing amounts? They use water from aquifers, streams, or oceans as if they were theirs and have little regard for the consequences to creatures that inhabit this planet. You can argue that certain restrictions are in place but only in degree. 4) Radiation and contamination of all places but particularly the sea and our mammalian brethren are at risk. The issue of radiation can be well documented by looking at what happened to the people of Japan following World War II. We are talking long terms, as mutations develop based on exposure to varying amounts of radioactively produced alpha & beta particles and gamma rays.  These extremely short and energy laden particles and waves pass right through living tissue be it diatom, embryo, human check cell, or marine mammal. The genetic code within cells is the recipient, and helter skelter can describe the resulting outcome. Mutations have made a significant contribution to the evolvement of living things, but intense radiation being evoked by today’s Japanese nuclear meltdown  will have tragic cellular outcomes and must be avoided.

At this moment our own Nuclear Energy Regulating Commission is considering the issuance of licenses to continue the operation of plants that were destined to retire. The most affected Japanese nuclear facility was/is scheduled for retirement within this calendar year, you are witness to the outcome. Please join me in opposing all re-licensing attempts. Encourage President Obama to better regulation, and the eventual closure of all nuclear power facilities in the United States.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Canadian Seal Hunt 2011 in Progress Thousand of Innocent Seals and Their Pups


By Kirsten Johnson

This Hunter with Slash and Hack Until the Defenseless Pup is Dead

Knowing that the Canadians opened their bloody Seal hunting season on March 3, 2011 has been tough to live with. I can’t help but flash to the dying seal pups as they look to their murders for sympathy only to have a hunter smile as he clubs the babe and then skins he or she alive. What for? The Chinese want to wear baby seal? According to Captain Watson of the Sea Shepherds the Canadians are only shooting themselves in the foot. “”Those who support the theory that seals are destroying the fish are only exposing their ignorance of ecological systems. The reasoning that less seals will result in more fish or that more seals will deplete existing fish populations is an unscientific belief because it is a belief not backed by observation or data. (“Seal Wars- Twenty Five Years on the Front Lines with the Harp Seals”- Firefly Books, Copyright 2003, Paul Watson)

He goes onto discuss the ecological implications of the seal hunt and how it really effects the fishing industry,

“When harp seals eat in herds, the return massive amounts of nutrients in the form of fecal material, which feeds the plankton, which feed the fish, which in turn feed the seals. The removal of this nutrient base would be critical to the health of plankton and fish populations.”(“Seal Wars- Twenty Five Years on the Front Lines with the Harp Seals”- Firefly Books, Copyright 2003, Paul Watson)
“The migrating seal herds, and other marine mammals, move nutrient wealth in a way no other force can: in giant north-south loops and from great depths to the surface. By going through regular periods of gorging and feasting, seals provide large amounts of nutrients at key times of the year. The combination of the seal supplied nutrients in the area where the Labrador Current meets the Gulf Stream of Mexico is responsible for the great fish grounds of the Grand Banks. Reference to the logs of captain Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, and John Cabot illustrate that at the time of the greatest number of seals prior to European exploitation, the fish were so abundant that Cabot described the Grand Banks as “so swarming with fish that they could be taken but in baskets let down with a stone.”((“Seal Wars- Twenty Five Years on the Front Lines with the Harp Seals”- Firefly Books, Copyright 2003, Paul Watson)

The world is condemning this practice. To watch a baby seal pup try to scurry away from a hunter on the ice is heart breaking. Here we sit in our warm homes enjoying food, and entertainment while at that very moment a Harp or Gray seal is being clubbed, shot, or hacked to death. How can this behavior on the part of man be right. When will man evolve beyond raping the ocean and murdering her children.

Follow the direct link below and ask  the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper  to end this needless bloodshed. Tell him that it is time to stop this campaign of cruelty for the profit of a few bloody thirsty money hungry Seal Hunters.

http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/contact.asp

If you still want to argue sustainability, if you have some small inkling of belief inside that this is OK and must be done for some twisted reason then you need to watch the graphic video below made by the Humane Society.