Sea Shepherd Calls for Release of Necropsy Results

A California Sea Lion, much like Brian, who may be persecuted for his sole crime of eating fishA California Sea Lion, much like Brian, who may be persecuted for his
sole crime of eating fish
Photo: Aaron Hall / Sea Shepherd
The first sea lion killing since Sea Shepherd Conservation Society took up watch of the imperiled marine mammals this season along the Columbia River took place this morning, reports the group’s Dam Guardians on the ground in Astoria, Ore. and at the Bonneville Dam.

The animal who was killed was sea lion C022, named “Brian” by Sea Shepherd supporter and Sea Lion Champion, Steve Jack of Scotland, UK, who affectionately called him “Brian the Lion.” “Brian” was branded C022 on 4/24/2012.

The Dam Guardians did not witness the killing. They arrived at the Wash. side of the Dam at approximately 6:15 am and the Ore. side at about 7:30 am. There was no evidence of sea lions in the traps at that time.

Dam Guardian Jeff Matthews of North Vancouver, B.C., observed and photographed a boat in the vicinity of the traps at about 7:50 a.m. and a second boat arrived on the scene at approximately 8:00 a.m., both on the Oregon side. The boats belonged to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. Workers from the boats appeared to be checking and securing gates on the traps. There were five sea lions in the water at the time; none were observed in the traps. At this time, it is unknown which trap “Brian” was captured in.

A statement on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) website indicates: “One California sea lion was trapped and euthanized at Bonneville Dam today. A physical exam by ODFW veterinarians showed the presence of precancerous lesions that made the animal ineligible for transfer to a zoo. The Queens Zoo in New York has offered to take up to two qualified California sea lions.” Veterinarians contend California sea lions with “precancerous lesions” have very short life-spans – about 1.5 years. Sea Shepherd would like to know how this is justification to kill the animal at this time?

The Dam Guardians are seeking more information. “We are calling for release of Brian’s necropsy results,” said Ashley Lenton, on site Dam Guardian Campaign Leader. “We are interested to know where on the body the lesions were found and we’d like to see photographs. With the ODFW’s constant hazing of these imperiled animals, we think the precancerous lesions might look strikingly similar to lesions caused by rubber bullet hazing and we’d like to see what an expert has to say on the subject,” she said. “It is doubtful the vets on staff with the ODFW are ballistics experts.”

Lenton added: “Given the unexplained ‘unusual mortality event’ currently plaguing Southern California sea lions, we find it ironic that wildlife officials down south are scrambling to save these animals by the hundreds while officials here in Oregon are doing everything they can to vilify and scapegoat these innocent creatures in an effort to appease fisherman. As a former wildlife rehabber, it’s unconscionable to me that these animals could be rehabbed and released in California and make the long trek up to Oregon only to be killed.”

With regional salmon beginning to run, the sea lions on the Columbia River are being subjected to constant hazing, which includes being poked and prodded off the docks while they are hauled out and trying to rest, being pelted with rubber bullets and bombed with explosives, being branded with fiery hot irons until the animals sometimes catch fire and bleed without the benefit of medical care, and ultimately being killed by lethal injection or shotgun if they are seen at Bonneville Dam for a total of five days (consecutive or over multiple years) after not responding to hazing or if seen eating just one fish. The ODFW has also begun hazing cormorants, osprey and other native birds that may be seen eating salmon. Where will it end?

“Oregon officials need to stop avoiding the manmade reasons why salmon are in decline on the Columbia River, including hydroelectric power, pollution, overfishing, hatcheries, and non-native fish introduced to please sport fisherman,” said Lenton. “Until that happens, if sea lions eat they are at risk of being killed and if they don’t eat, they will starve. In this scenario, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”

Notes:

  • ODFW is in charge of killing sea lions on the Columbia River. A statement released on the ODFW website about the killing of C022 can be found here: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/SeaLion/index.asp
  • Dam Guardian Sea Lion Champions have named their animals in order to pay homage to the personality of each individual animal and to let officials know that the killing of these creatures is indeed personal and matters to the world. Champion a Sea Lion
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