File photoThe concept of scapegoating has been around since the times of the Ancient Greeks.  They used the term “pharmakos” to describe a person (often a beggar or criminal) who was cast out of the community following a natural disaster.  In some accounts, the pharmakos was stoned or beaten.  In others, he was executed and the ashes were spread to the ocean.

Fast forward through the centuries to the waters of Taiji, Japan, where dolphins are scapegoated as “pests” by Japanese government officials and a small handful of fishermen who claim they are eating “their” fish.  As a result, the animals are brutally slaughtered in a shallow cove.  From September 2011 to March 2012, Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians witnessed the deaths of more than 700 scapegoated dolphins.

Across the great Pacific at the Bonneville Dam near Portland, Oregon, Zalophus californianus the California sea lion is the scapegoat of federal and state officials, along with a number of other special interest groups, all of whom claim a stake in saving endangered salmon or fishing rights on the Columbia River.  As a result, a recent ruling by a federal judge paved the way for up to 30 California sea lions to be lethally injected for eating endangered salmon at the dam.  Mathematical evidence suggests that sea lions aren’t to blame.  A Questions & Answers document posted online by the Northwest Regional Office of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on March 15, 2012, states, “The proportion of the [salmon] run consumed by sea lions varies depending on run size. It has generally ranged between 2 and 4% since 2004, but was just 1.6% in 2011.”  In contrast, sport, commercial, and tribal fishermen take up to 17% of the annual salmon run according to reports by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  The nonprofit recently filed a lawsuit to save the embattled sea lions.

As sport fishing is a key source of revenue and recreational activity for states along the Columbia River, it seems as though the voice of the anglers carries far more weight than the reality of the situation.  A taskforce convened in fall 2011 by NMFS to make recommendations to approve or deny applications to lethally remove sea lions along the Bonneville Dam was stacked against the sea lions.  Among 16 members of the taskforce, 14 voted in favor of the states’ applications.  Those who voted against were HSUS representative Sharon Young and Daryl Bonness, independent research scientist and current Chairman of the Marine Mammal Commission.  Stated Bonness, “I do not believe based on the data available that efforts to kill California sea lions are going to solve the problem and therefore they should not continue under Section 120.”  Despite the data, on March 15, 2012, James Lecky, Director of the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, NOAA, signed a letter authorizing lethal removal of California sea lions -- a species protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act - from the Bonneville Dam.

Lecky has a well-documented history of ignoring math and science and caving to the vocal needs of special interests.  In 2002, he ignored scientific evidence from NMFS scientists and made a call that led to one of the largest fish kills in US History.  As many as 70,000 salmon have died because water was diverted from the Klamath River for agricultural use.  In 2007 testimony to the Congressional House Natural Resources Committee, former NOAA Fisheries Biologist Mike Kelly recounted being directed by Lecky to conclude, contrary to available evidence, that sharply reduced flows would not adversely affect federally protected salmon. “I was asked to make 1 + 1 = 3,” he stated, noting that the order was both “bizarre” and illegal.  A 2007 article published in The Washington Post, linked the decision all the way up the chain of command to Vice President Dick Cheney.

In the wake of the fish kill, Lecky was promoted to his current position as NMFS Director of Protected Resources.  In this capacity he oversees all biological opinions on threatened and endangered species for NOAA.  Something is fishy at the federal fisheries agency.  The math just doesn’t add up...at least not for the animals the agency is mandated to protect.  The salmon in the Klamath River needed water to survive.  The sea lions at the Bonneville Dam need fish to survive.  Overfishing and other factors including the dam itself has a far greater impact on salmon than the 30 sea lions now targeted for lethal injection.  Sadly for those of us who care about protecting marine mammals, it seems as though it is easier for NMFS officials to scapegoat the sea lions than to find a real solution to the problems at the Bonneville Dam.

Please click here to sign the petition to Save the Bonneville Sea Lions

Sea Shepherd
Why Just One NYC screening Q&A
Why Just One NYC screening Q&A
On December 16, 2016, the New York City chapter hosted the premiere of Why Just One? Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s first full length, in-house documentary. The sold-out event was Captain Paul Watson's his first New York appearance at a Sea Shepherd event since returning to the United States...
Sea Shepherd vs Poachers in the Gulf of California
Sea Shepherd vs Poachers in the Gulf of California
Six fishing boats engaged in illegal activities were spotted by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, ending in their arrest by the Mexican Navy.
Ghost Nets Go; Vaquitas Stay
Ghost Nets Go; Vaquitas Stay
Sea Shepherd and the M/V Farley Mowat break down how illegal underwater nets in the Sea of Cortez are snagged, pulled, cut and bundled. Footage also includes freeing and releasing live animals from the nets and cataloging those who unfortunately did not make it.
Sam Simon arrives in Mexico for Operation Milagro III
Sam Simon arrives in Mexico for Operation Milagro III
The Sam Simon has arrived in Mexico to join the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society-led campaign, Operation Milagro III. A partnership between Sea Shepherd and the Mexican authorities, Operation Milagro III intercepts, intervenes and interrupts any illegal activities found in the Vaquita refuge in the...
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
**If you cannot see the captions on this video, just click on CC on the lower right corner of video settings on the video ** #Breaking #SeaShepherd helps scientists learn more about #rare Beaked whales! Did you know that Cuvier's Beaked whales hold the record for the deepest mammalian dive? Watch t...
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is returning to Mexico’s Gulf of California for Operation Milagro III to save the near extinct vaquita marina porpoise and the endangered totoaba bass. The M/V Farley Mowat is back on active duty with the M/V Sam Simon joining the Milagro campaign for the first ti...
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
The Farley Mowat Sea Shepherd crew is called out to investigate a dead Brydes whale in the Gulf of California on November 5th, 2016 while patrolling the vaquita refuge. To help the Sea Shepherd crew to continue its work in the Sea of Cortez, including protecting the near-extinct vaquita marina porpo...
Entanglement in the South
Entanglement in the South
Operation Guardian Angel - In and around Bahia de Los Angeles, in the Gulf of California, countless marine species are entrapped in nets with little or no hope of rescue. Rosalia Tellez works for CONANP, a department of the Mexican government that acts as park rangers to enforce laws and assist in ...
Good and Bad Days
Good and Bad Days
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers over the course of two days. The first day Sea Shepherd locates and removes a long line from the sea; fortunately no animals were caught in the net. However, the next day volunteers find a sea lion that has been caught and died in a fisherman's net.
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Sea Shepherd campaign Operation Virus Hunter saw the vessel RV Martin Sheen under the leadership of Alexandra Morton, head up the coast of British Columbia Canada to expose open pen Atlantic salmon farms and the impact they are having on wild Pacific salmon and the the surrounding eco-systems.
Illegal Totoaba Nets
Illegal Totoaba Nets
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers through the process of locating, retrieving and disposing of illegal nets in the Gulf of California.
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
August 12th 2016: Early Thursday morning the R/V Martin Sheen assisted Melissa Willie, a band councilor of the Musgamagw Dza’wada’enuxw nation, in hand delivering a letter to three farms expressing the nations disapproval of the industry. Sea Shepherd crew alongside independent biologist Alexand...
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
Ross McCall travels to the Faroe Islands to explore the truths behind the centuries old tradition of the brutal Pilot Whale drives.
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Sea Shepherd Chairman of the Board, actor/activist Pamela Anderson, cautions viewers about the dangers of eating farmed salmon.
Why Just One?  Indiegogo Video
Why Just One? Indiegogo Video
Support Sea Shepherd's documentary by sharing and backing our Indiegogo campaign here: http://bit.ly/1OfvER6
Milagro Summary - English
Milagro Summary - English
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Operation Milagro II has come to an end. Milagro is its campaign to fight the looming extinction of the vaquita porpoise, the most endangered marine mammal in the world. With an estimate of less than 100 surviving vaquita, Sea Shepherd ships the R/V Martin Sheen...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
Watch the crew of the Farley Mowat capture footage of illegal fishing activity with a night vision drone and pull up a totoaba net in the dead of night. This is the final vlog of Operation Milagro II!
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project is dedicated to collect samples from whales in the Gulf of California to measure levels of toxins in whales in order to determine the levels of toxins in the Gulf of California itself. Learn more at: www.seashepherd.org
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
Never before seen footage. Sea Shepherd catches critically endangered totoaba poacher in the act. The Sea Shepherd crew filmed these totoaba poachers as they were checking one of their illegal nets in the protected vaquita habitat. The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the wor...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
Watch‬ the routine of our crew doing valuable work in the ‪Sea of Cortez‬. We have been very effective at removing illegal fishing gear from the ‪‎vaquita‬ porpoise's habitat. So much so, that now, most of the time we remove nets and lines that are mostly empty, our favorite thing to do....
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
The Sea Shepherd crew has found 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks in the month of march of 2016. The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Learn more at: www.seashepherd.org/milagro2
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
While patrolling the waters of the upper Gulf of California the Sea Shepherd crew found a dead vaquita porpoise. The vaquita is the most endangered marine mammal in the whole world. The crew also found a Great White Shark caught in an illegal gillnet.
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 12 - This is Direct Action
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 12 - This is Direct Action
This week, the crew of ‪Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ships The M/V Farley Mowat and The RV Martin Sheen find and retrieve an illegal totoaba bass long line from the critically endangered ‪vaquita porpoise habitat. The totoaba fish is also critically endangered. Watch all episodes at: http...
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
Sea Shepherd crew rescued a whale entangled in an illegal totoaba gillnet in the Gulf of California. Sea Shepherd currently has two vessels in Mexico's Gulf of California on OPERATION MILAGRO. Our goal is to save the vaquita porpoises, the most endangered marine mammal. The vaquita are caught as a r...
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
You might know Gregg Lowe from X-Men: Days of Future Past, but now watch him explain Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro and understand why we must save the #VaquitaMarina - The most endangered cetacean in the world. Help us save the vaquita at: http://seashepherd.org/milagro2/donate-now/vaquita-appeal...