Federal game wardens are offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information on a string of California sea lion shootings in the Central Sound since late last summer.
They say more than a dozen in King and Kitsap Counties have been confirmed to have been shot, with many washing up dead in West Seattle.
“We are concerned about a number of recent reports of marine mammal deaths caused by gunshots in the greater Seattle area. OLE investigates all reported unlawful takes of sea lions,” said Greg Busch of NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement in a press release.
NOAA is in charge of enforcing the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which bars harassing, shooting or killing sea lions, among other species.
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Violating the act can incur up to $28,500 in penalties per count, plus a year in jail and forfeiture of equipment used in the crime.
The reward is contingent on the info leading to a perpetrator or perps receiving a civil penalty or being criminally convicted.
The numbers to call are (206) 526-4300 for the agent on the case, or a 24-hour hotline, (800) 853-1964.
According to NOAA sea lion shootings in fall and winter have become “a regular occurrence” up and down the West Coast.
As the species has reached its habitat’s carrying capacity in recent years, conflicts have grown as the sea-going pinnipeds have swam up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers to feast on salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.
Last fall, ODFW was granted a federal permit to remove up to 93 a year at Willamette Falls to save an endangered run of winter steelhead.
And in December, a bill passed by Congress will allow up to 1100 or so to be killed by Idaho, Oregon and Washington state wildlife and several tribes in portions of the Columbia and its salmonid-bearing tribs.