Aerial pictures of this year’s high number of marine mammals in the Lower Columbia have surfaced.
Early last month, 7,600 pinnipeds were counted between Buoy 10 and Portland during a WDFW survey.
One picture looks like some Alaskan walrus haulout, but actually shows a large number of harbor seals laying up on Desdemona Sands off Astoria.
Another shows a large herd of sea lions on the nearby East Mooring Basin, near the public boat ramp.
According to a report, over 6,000 harbor seals, 1,500 California sea lions and 100 Steller sea lions were tallied.
At that point they’d gathered to intercept the Columbia, Cowlitz and Sandy Rivers smelt run, but many will stick around as the Chinook return builds this month and next.
How big a bite they take of the run — which includes ESA-listed salmon stocks in Eastern Washington and Central Idaho — is yet to be seen, but reporting on a NOAA study that left even the federal researchers rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the high number, the Columbia Basin Bulletin wrote this about last year’s run of the gauntlet:
“After subtracting known salmon takings such as human harvest, nearly half (45 percent) of known springtime salmon entrants to the mouth of the Columbia River this past spring season went missing in the area from river mile 28 to river mile 146 (Bonneville Dam).”
Earlier this year, a pair of Lower Columbia Congressmen, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Southwest Washington Republican, and Rep. Kurt Schrader, a Northwest Oregon Democrat, teamed up to introduce the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, which aims to “improve the survival of endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species in the Columbia River system.”
According to a press release from Herrera Beutler, it would authorize tribal members — under the training of U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff — to use lethal force to remove sea lions after multiple attempts at relocation have been unsuccessful.
The states of Oregon and Washington already have that authority.