April 8, 2013

Dam Guardian Report - April 8, 2013

By Ashley Lenton, Dam Guardian Campaign Leader and Sandy McElhaney, Dam Guardian Campaign Volunteer

Sadly, we know that the branding is merely the initiation into the fraternity of hell that awaits the sea lions who eventually journey on towards the Bonneville Dam.

The blood stained brand 4 days later still looks painfulThis blood stained brand still looks painful even 4 days later
Photo: Sea Shepherd
It is hard to imagine a place that exhibits as much contempt for marine mammals as Taiji, Japan, except perhaps the states of Oregon and Washington in the United States’ Pacific Northwest.  Taiji is the notorious location of our Cove Guardian Campaign and the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington is where our 2013 Dam Guardian Campaign is now underway.  Sea Shepherd’s two “Guardian” campaigns take place in small fishing communities that are oceans apart, yet strikingly similar in their approaches to marine mammals.  For the last three seasons, our Cove Guardians have traveled to the remote coastal village of Taiji to monitor the brutal slaughter of dolphins in a shallow cove that is tucked away in a national park.  Likewise, this is our second season in Oregon and Washington to report on the legal cull of sea lions for the crime of eating salmon.

In Taiji, fishermen label dolphins as “pests”. Along the Columbia River, in places like the Port of Astoria and the Bonneville Dam, sea lions are viewed with the same disdain by sport, commercial, and tribal fisheries.  Thanks to a letter of authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service to the states of Oregon and Washington, up to 92 fish-eating California sea lions will be killed annually through June 2016.

In our first Dam Guardian report, we described the violent branding of more than 30 sea lions at the Port of Astoria on Palm Sunday. The sea lions are branded as a means to identify those who eat too many salmon. We have since witnessed two more of these heinous assaults on wildlife. Twenty sea lions were branded on March 27th. The following day, an additional five sea lions endured the torture of the red-hot branding iron pressed into their sensitive fur and flesh.  Our photos and video footage of the branding clearly show the animals bucking in pain as the hot iron is applied and then to add further insult to injury, the worker STANDS on their backs.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) must be following our campaign, because they were very quick to issue a public statement that “most sea lions react very little to the branding event.”  In response to that bit of fiction, we would like to suggest that the ODFW workers turn the brand on themselves and experience exactly how it feels.

On April 1st the pier was closed to the public.  We are now forced to monitor the harassment and branding of sea lions by ODFW personnel from a distance.  They must be taking a page from the books of the Taiji fishermen, who, over the last three seasons, have erected various barricades to hide their dirty little secrets from the watchful eyes and lenses of our Guardians.  There are certain things, however, that can’t be hidden -- like the silence that fills the Cove after the slaughter of a pod of dolphins or the smoke wafting above a freshly branded sea lion.  There is no perfume that can cover the nauseating stench that hangs in the air at the Taiji butcher house or at the Port of Astoria following a branding session.  Sadly, we know that the branding is merely the initiation into the fraternity of hell that awaits the sea lions who eventually journey on towards the Bonneville Dam.  Those who make the trip, face lethal injection should they be trapped on the death barges of the damned.

Although it has been very rainy at the dam, the hazers are here in force shooting bombs and rubber bullets at any sea lions caught in their sights.  On April 5th, we observed a hazer with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) menacingly brandishing his firearm near one of the few sea lions we saw this week. The gunman literally took a thug-like stance as he fired at the frightened pinniped.

CRITFC firing into the water at the sight of any sea lionCRITFC firing into the water at the sight of any sea lion
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Despite strong winds and heavy rains these past several days, Dam Guardians remain on duty, monitoring and reporting on the seemingly endless attack on wildlife here at the Bonneville Dam and at the Port of Astoria.  We would like to thank Frances, Nin, David, Luana, Be, Eric, Kimber, Mike, Leslie, Stephan, Andrew, Elora, Scott, Jake, Dieynaba, Aaron, Ethan, Airick, Rachel, Sammarye and Jeff for their vigilance on the ground on behalf of our clients, whose only crime is having the audacity of eating to survive.

Please be sure to follow us on twitter @DamGuardians, on Facebook at Sea Shepherd USA.

To join our team of dedicated volunteers, send an email to: damguardian@seashepherd.org

For the sea lions,
Ashley Lenton, Dam Guardian Campaign Leader
Sandy McElhaney, Dam Guardian Campaign Volunteer

Dam Guardians Sammarye, Leslie, Elora, and EthanDam Guardians Sammarye, Leslie, Elora, and Ethan
Photo: Sea Shepherd

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