Due to the significant overpopulation of the California Sea Lion over the last decade, there has been a steady decline in the numbers of salmon making there way back to spawn in the Columbia River System. Recently legislation was passed allowing for the killing of sea lions in an attempt to help prevent the continued decline of Columbia River salmon populations. Currently, sea lions have been working their way over 100 miles up the Columbia and to Willamette Fall to feast on salmon.
Over the weekend ODFW finally took action by killing four sea lions who were in the act of preying on salmon at Willamette Falls. The Willamette River an estuary of the Columbia has had problems with sea lions in the past trapping spawning salmon and the falls and feeding on the salmon as the stop for a breather before leaping the falls.
Several non-lethal methods had been used on the past to no avail and now Oregon has found it’s self at a crossroads where they are forced to kill the very animals they had sworn to protect. Due to the rapid recovery of the California sea lions, their populations are estimated in the 300,000 range currently in the Pacific Northwest. In regards to impact in an interview last year wildlife agency’s senior policy adviser Shaun Clements stated that California sea lions are responsible for killing around a quarter of the winter steelhead and make it to the Willamette Falls, he also estimated that around 9% of Columbia River Spring Chinook are getting eaten by sea lions as well. (National Post, March 2018).
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – California Sea Lion Management – https://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/sealion/
National Post – Sea lions feasting on endangered salmon and steelhead fish in Pacific Northwest – https://nationalpost.com/news/world/sea-lions-gobbling-fragile-fish-in-us-northwest-survival-war
Oregon Live – State begins killing sea lions at Willamette Falls to save salmon – https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2019/01/state-begins-killing-sea-lions-at-willamette-falls-to-save-salmon.html