Tag Archives: SEA LIONS

Competition For Chinook By Seals, Sea Lions Limiting Salish Sea Orca Recovery, Study Says

Despite decreasing Chinook catches over recent decades, runs haven’t increased overall and more new research is pointing the finger at the bellies of growing West Coast marine mammal populations, a hunger that may be “masking” salmon recovery efforts.

A study out today says that between 1975 and 2015, sea lion, harbor seal and killer whale appetites for the nutrient-rich salmon more than doubled, growing from 6,100 metric tons annually to 15,200 metric tons, or 33,510,264 pounds.

HUGH ALLEN SNAPPED THIS HARBOR SEAL STEALING A SAN JUANS SALMON LITERALLY OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

That’s the equivalent of 31.5 million kings, up from 5 million 40 years ago.

 

The study was published by researchers from Oregon State University, NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center and WDFW and tribal biologists, among others, in the journal Physical Reports under the headline “Competing tradeoffs between increasing marine mammal predation and fisheries harvest of Chinook salmon.”

The rub is that the fish and finned mammals are both protected by federal laws.

While killer whales account for the lion’s share of Chinook poundage consumed — especially those packs that haunt the waters from the west coast of Vancouver Island north to the Gulf of Alaska — the study suggests that the increasing numbers of pinnipeds are impacting the ability of Puget Sound’s orcas to recover more so than our fishing seasons targeting kings.

“Our results suggest that at least in recent years competition with other marine mammals is a more important factor limiting the growth of this endangered population than competition with human fisheries,” researchers state.

Pinnipeds are infamous for stealing Chinook off anglers’ lines, but much of what they eat are actually juvenile fish — harbor seals in particular.

Those in the Salish Sea, which includes Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Georgia, consume 86.4 percent of all those smolts eaten by marine mammals, “due to large increases in the harbor seal abundance in this region between 1975 and 2015 (8,600 to 77,800).”

“For Salish Sea Chinook salmon, strong increases in predation greatly exceed harvest; this is driven largely by local increases in pinniped abundance in the Salish Sea,” researchers write.

Overall, West Coast recreational and commercial catches have declined from 3.6 million to 2.1 million kings, while marine mammal consumption of adult salmon has risen from 1.3 million to 3.1 million.

Hatchery production peaked around 1985 at 350 million but has since declined to around 225 million a year. Overall hatchery and wild production is running between 400 million and 475 million in recent years, according to the study.

“… (L)ong term reductions in the salmon available for commercial and recreational fisheries may not reflect lower abundance of salmon, but rather a reallocation from human harvest to marine mammal consumption,” the authors write. “Because many populations of Chinook salmon in the Northeast Pacific are of conservation concern, substantial resources have been invested to improve salmon passage through hydropower dams, restore salmon habitat, reduce fishing, and otherwise improve conditions in rivers and streams to improve productivity. Collectively, these recovery efforts may have increased Chinook salmon survival or recovery, but these increases in salmon populations may be offset by salmon consumption by more-rapidly increasing populations of marine mammals and other predators.”

Columbia Basin fishery managers and others are pushing to increase lethal removals of sea lions, including most recently at Willamette Falls.

The new study, which looks at ocean impacts, found that for Chinook stocks from the Columbia south, “predation impacts have increased strongly over time and exceeded harvest in recent years.”

Leptospirosis Hitting Oregon Sea Lions; ODFW Warns Beach-goers With Dogs

THE FOLLOWING IS A JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE, OREGON HEALTH AUTHORITY, OREGON MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING NETWORK AND OREGON STATE PARKS

Oregon and California are seeing an increase in the number of stranded sea lions along the coast due to leptospirosis, a bacteria that can also sicken dogs, livestock, people and other wildlife.

SEA LIONS IN YAQUINA BAY AFTER AUGUST’S ECLIPSE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“Over the past few months, we have been getting calls for multiple sick or dead sea lions daily, which is higher than normal,” said Jim Rice, an OSU Marine Mammal Institute researcher who works at the OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. At least eight cases of leptospirosis have been confirmed through OSU’s Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory since the outbreak began in late September, mostly on beaches in Lincoln, Tillamook and Clatsop counties.

While leptospirosis occurs worldwide, outbreaks occur only sporadically in marine mammals, with the last Oregon outbreak seen in 2010.  The disease can spread when an animal comes into contact with urine or other bodily fluids of an infected  animal and can lead to kidney failure, fever, weakness, muscle pain, and other symptoms. In Oregon, young male sea lions are typically affected and usually show signs of dehydration, depression and reluctance to use their hind flippers.

While there is a small risk of transmission to people, dogs are most at risk of becoming infected by approaching stranded sea lions on the beach or coming in contact with body fluid from sick or dead sea lions. People walking their dogs on the beach should keep their dogs on a leash and not allow them to get close to stranded sea lions.

“Pets should be kept away from sea lions as leptospirosis can cause severe disease,” said Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian of the Oregon Health Authority. “Note that there are vaccines available to protect dogs and horses against leptospirosis, please contact your veterinarian for more information.

If your dog becomes ill after being exposed to sick or dead sea lions, contact your veterinarian immediately,” added DeBess.

People who observe sick sea lions or other marine mammals on the beach should say at least 50 feet away from them and report them to OSP at 1-800-452-7888. (OSP shares these reports with the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network.)

Even when sea lions are healthy, it’s never a good idea to approach them. It’s also a violation of federal and state laws to harass, disturb, touch, or feed marine mammals.

For more information about leptospirosis, visit ODFW’s fact sheet or the Center for Disease Control website. For more information about wildlife diseases, contact ODFW’s wildlife health hotline at 1-866-968-2600.

‘Long Past Time’ To Act On Sea Lion Predation In Columbia System, NSIA Tells Congress

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association is lending its support to a bipartisan sea lion management bill that had a hearing in Washington DC this week.

“It’s long past time for an amendment to the (Marine Mammal Protection Act) to prevent an outcome whereby the protection of one species precipitates the extinction of another,” wrote Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Portland-based organization in a letter to the Water, Power and Ocean Subcommittee of the House Natural Resource Committee.

A SEA LION PREPARES TO EAT A FISH BELOW WILLAMETTE FALLS IN THIS 2011 ODFW IMAGE. (ODFW)

Members were hearing about HR 2083, the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, introduced by Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R) with cosponsorship from Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader (D), among others.

The bill would in part provide four Columbia River tribes with the authority to remove problem California sea lions from more of the lower river, as well its tributaries.

Hamilton addressed pinniped predation in the Willamette in her letter, noting that the area below the falls is not unlike the fish death trap at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia.

“Unable to escape or go elsewhere, they are trapped like sitting ducks for the growing numbers of sea lions congregating below the falls in Oregon City. I fished in this area with my family for over 30 years and watched firsthand the arrival, then growth in numbers of marine mammals and the growing consumption of steelhead, salmon and sturgeon,” she wrote.

IN THIS SCREEN GRAB FROM A TWITTER VIDEO, REP. JAIME HERRERA BEUTLER SHOWS A HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SUBCOMMITTEE PHOTOS OF SOME OF THE “OFFENDERS” PICKING OFF ESA-LISTED SALMON AND STEELHEAD AND OTHER COLUMBIA WATERSHED STOCKS. HERRERA BEUTLER INTRODUCED A BILL TO EXPAND MANAGEMENT OF CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS.  (TWITTER)

Hamilton says that they’re affecting the near-recovery of ESA-listed Willamette winter steelhead, and that a draft estimate of sea lion consumption rates on this season’s run is 25 percent, up from 2015 and 2016’s 15 percent.

“This 25 percent consumption rate is especially disturbing as the winter steelhead run has collapsed to one-tenth of the 10-year average, down to less than 1,000 fish,” she writes. “We fear the sea lions will consume this race of fish to extinction, much as they did to the steelhead in the mid 1990’s at Ballard Locks, near Seattle Washington, due to ineffective actions that occurred too late to prevent the catastrophe.”

Hamilton’s letter adds to testimony before the Water, Power and Ocean Subcommittee by Leland Bill, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribe Fish Commission. He told members that “data shows a growing predation problem” but “that the current approach is not enough. I’m here to tell you that more needs to be done.”

In another letter of support, Coastal Conservation Association’s Oregon and Washington chapters called the situation “critical.”

“We simply must act before it’s too late,” wrote Chris Cone and Nello Picinich, executive directors of the two chapters.

Added Hamilton:

“Northwest sportfishing for salmon and steelhead is more than an economic engine and a cultural birthright, it is a funding source for conservation. License fees, collected primarily through NSIA retailers, fund much of the conservation mission at the fish and wild life agencies. In addition, our industry pays a federal excise tax on manufactured goods that is returned to the states through the Sport Fish Restoration fund. Even for those who do not fish, salmon are an ever-present icon — seen on our license plates, on buildings and artwork everywhere. For the Native American Tribes in the Northwest, salmon are a sacred part of their culture.”

She said that while industries such as forestry, agriculture and power production are regulated to minimize fish impacts, “the consumption of salmon and steelhead by marine mammals grows, nearly unchecked, at an alarming rate.”

Columbia Tribes’ Chair Testifies For Sea Lion Management Bill

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION

The Pacific Northwest needs more efficient and effective management tools to address the growing issue of sea lion predation on the Columbia River’s at-risk salmon populations. That was the message delivered earlier today by Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) Chairman Leland Bill when he testified in support of H.R. 2083, the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act. Invited to testify by committee Chairman Lamborn, today’s hearing was before the Water, Power and Oceans, a subcommittee to the House Natural Resource Committee.

 

THE BACK OF A COLUMBIA SYSTEM SPRING CHINOOK BEARS SCARS FROM AN ATTACK BY A SEA LION. (CRITFC)

Introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R-WA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Rep. Don Young (R-AK), H.R. 2083 would extend pinniped removal authority to CRITFC and the four sovereign tribes that they represent  (the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama and Warm Springs tribes) who have co-management authority on the Columbia River. In addition to removal authority, the legislation implements area-based management rather than individual sea lion management and allows fishery management agencies to remove California sea lions upstream of river mile 120 or in any Columbia River tributary. This streamlined process would allow the region to effectively manage sea lion predation on endangered salmon populations.

Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit, the four tribes’ comprehensive anadromous fish management plan, addresses the challenges facing Columbia River salmon throughout their entire life cycle including marine mammal predation.  The effects of land and water management, harvest, hydroelectric passage, hatcheries and predation must be considered in a holistic manner. As explained by the Commission’s Chairman, “the Creator placed an obligation on the Indian people to speak for the salmon. Our testimony and management actions help fulfill this commitment.”

Over the past 15 years, sea lion populations throughout the 145 river miles between the estuary and Bonneville Dam have significantly increased. The subsequent spike in predation on endangered salmon has resulted in a significant loss of adult salmon. NOAA Fisheries found that 45 percent of the 2014 spring chinook run was potentially lost to sea lions. Last year, approximately 190 sea lions killed over 9,500 adult spring chinook within a quarter mile of Bonneville Dam – a 5.8 percent loss of the 2016 spring chinook return.

A limited sea lion removal program has been in effect at Bonneville Dam since 2011. However, a cumbersome process and litigation has hampered the program’s success and the current program has not reduced sea lion predation below Bonneville Dam.

Sea lion populations have seen resurgence under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In 1972 when the Act was passed, the California sea lion population hovered around 30,000 animals. Today, there are over 325,000 animals along the West Coast and the species has fully recovered.

“The actions proposed under H.R. 2083 are guided by 10 years of data,” explained Chairman Bill. “This data shows a growing predation problem and our on-the-river experience implementing Section 120 removal permits has taught us that the current approach is not enough. I’m here to tell you that more needs to be done.”

CRITFC Releases Name Of Tech Who Died On Columbia, More On Accident

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION

On Friday, April 7, 2017 a Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) four-member crew was conducting sea lion abundance counts in the lower Columbia River aboard the research vessel CRITFC 3 when it capsized near Multnomah Falls. Crewmember Greg George (56) was transported via Life Flight to Portland where he later died. A member of the Yakama Nation, Greg came from a well-known fishing family and had decades of experience on the river as both a fisher and research technician. He worked on a number of fisheries projects over the past 20 years for CRITFC, USGS, and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. His work at CRITFC included measuring gas bubble trauma in juvenile salmon, removing northern pike minnow, and evaluating sea lion predation on returning salmon in the lower Columbia River.

The other three crewmembers received care for mild hypothermia in area hospitals and were released later that day. The surviving crewmembers are Bobby Begay and Maria Jim, both Yakama Nation tribal members, and Tyler Simmons, a Umatilla tribal member.

THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION REPORTS THAT ON THE DAY ITS TECH GREG GEORGE DIED, THE CREW REPORTED THAT THE RIVER IN THE WESTERN GORGE WAS “CALM” AT THE START OF THEIR SEA LION SURVEY AT PHOCA ROCKS, NEAR WHERE THIS IMAGE WAS TAKEN, BUT WINDS CAME UP AND CONDITIONS DETERIORATED, SENDING A WAVE OVER THE BOW OF THEIR BOAT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Davis Washines, Yakama Nation General Council Chairman and retired Chief of CRITFC Enforcement met with CRITFC staff on Monday morning to reflect on the accident and honor Greg. “We are taught to always treat one another in a good way, because we never know when the Creator will call our name. One day, we can be talking and visiting with someone, and the next day they can be gone. Greg grew up as a Columbia River fisherman and worked over the past 20 years helping to restore and protect the salmon runs, which he was doing when this tragic accident happened. He loved the river and saw the importance of his job protecting salmon. We can now say that he truly dedicated his life to this effort. He worked for something important and this work goes on. We can pay tribute to his sacrifice and his honor by continuing to restore and protect our first food, salmon.”

The day started at 8:30am when the crew checked in with the Portland office and reported that the Columbia River just below Bonneville Dam was calm and that they were heading to Phoca Rock for their morning sea lion count. Phoca Rock is an outcrop across from Bridle Veil Falls 13 miles downstream from Bonneville Dam. On their return, river conditions worsened and a large wave broke over the bow of the boat, capsizing it. The crewmembers were able to exit the cabin and held on to the capsized vessel until it sank. All were wearing flotation devices and were retrieved from the water by the Gresham Fire and Rescue team who were dispatched after receiving 911 calls.

The CRITFC 3 was a three-year-old, 26-foot research vessel that was equipped with twin-engines, a self-bailing deck, and the latest navigation and safety equipment.

“CRITFC and it’s member tribes mourn the loss of our colleague and our friend who was lost in this accident and give thanks for the safe return of the other three crew members,” said Leland Bill, Chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “The crew captain showed true bravery and his actions prevented an even larger tragedy. The Columbia River offers many gifts but its power makes it dangerous, even for the most experienced.”

“We are overwhelmed by the community support and well-wishes from our state and federal partners as well as members of the public,” Chairman Bill continued. “We will be forever grateful to the first responders who were involved in the rescue effort and provided care to our crew.”

2 NW US Reps Introduce Bill To Control Sea Lion Predation On Columbia ESA Fish Stocks

THE FOLLOWING IS A JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM U.S. REPS. JAMIE HERRERA BEUTLER AND KURT SCHRADER

U.S. Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) have introduced the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill to improve the survival of endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species in the Columbia River system. The legislation provides tribal members and government fish managers with the means to remove sea lions from specific areas where they are posing the most harm.

Our community prioritizes protecting salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River because they are central to our way of life in the Pacific Northwest,” said Jaime. “The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act is critical because sea lion predation is posing a serious threat to our salmon populations, impacting our efforts to ensure their survival. With this solution, we have to tools to better protect the salmon so vital to our recreational, cultural and economic interests.”

SEA LIONS CROWD THE DOCKS AT ASTORIA IN SPRING 2015. (WDFW)

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen a record number of California and Steller sea lions in the Columbia River from Astoria to Bonneville Dam,” said Rep. Schrader. “These sea lions pose a real threat to the salmon in the river that BPA ratepayers and my constituents pay hundreds of millions of dollars annually as part of the largest mitigation program in the country for threatened and endangered species. These predators are present in numbers totally inconsistent with their historic range. Even the National Marine Fisheries Service called the mortality of salmon returning to the Columbia River Basin that’s attributable to sea lions alarming. We need to eliminate this threat to our iconic Oregon salmon that are struggling to survive. I’ve been working with Rep. Herrera Beutler and our states, tribes, and local communities for several years now on solutions to save our salmon, and this legislation will provide the states and tribal members the authority they need to eliminate this threat once and for all.”

“Unless Congress finally acts to protect our wild and endangered Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead from extensive, unnatural sea lion predation we will likely lose species to extinction,” said Gary Loomis, founder of G-Loomis, Edge Rods and Coastal Conservation Association in the Pacific Northwest.  “There is strong scientific consensus on the need for action and I applaud the bipartisan efforts of Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Kurt Schrader to lead this important effort once again.  The rest of our Congressional delegation – Senate and House, Republican and Democrat – need to support this effort before it is too late.”

“The spring chinook loss, coupled with the growing sea lion population, has placed us in an emergency situation,” said Leland Bill, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act   would give us the flexibility to address the current sea lion situation so conflicts with at-risk species can be managed.”

Specifically, this bipartisan bill would authorize states and tribal members to lethally remove sea lions that are predating on endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species. This bill builds on previous versions of the legislation by requiring eligible entities to have received training from a state fish and wildlife organization. The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act is supported by a broad spectrum of Northwest residents and organizations that includes recreational fishermen represented by the Coastal Conservation Association, Tribes and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Historic recovery efforts of endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River have been compromised by exponentially increasing sea lion predation in recent years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California sea lions have killed the largest proportion of spring Chinook salmon and steelhead this year than any year since 2011.

The estimated consumption of salmon and steelhead by California sea lions in the Bonneville Dam tailrace was 1.14% (1,402 fish) in 2013, 1.17% (2,615 fish) in 2014, 3.12% (7,779 fish) in 2015, and 3.9% (6,371 fish) in 2016.

Protecting salmon populations helps secure a future for recreational fishing in Washington state – an industry that contributes 4,811 jobs, generates $498 million in sales and contributes $361 million to the state’s gross domestic product (2014 statistics).