“Researcher” Matthew Tennis catches the fur of a sea lion on fire during branding, Port of Astoria - March 24, 2013“Researcher” Matthew Tennis catches the fur
of a sea lion on fire during branding,
Port of Astoria - March 24, 2013
Photo: Aaron Hall / Sea Shepherd
On February 18, 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued Permit No. 13430 to the National Marine Mammal Laboratory for “research activities” on marine mammals: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/permits/13430_issued.pdf

According to the “Permit to Take Protected Species for Scientific Purposes,” which is authorized through January 31, 2015, the purpose of the research is to “provide information necessary for marine mammal stock assessments and management, including management of marine mammal predation on threatened and endangered salmonids.”

Among the listed Co-Investigators on Permit No. 13430 is Matt Tennis. Tennis is known to those who follow the Sea Shepherd Dam Guardian Campaign as the individual in charge of the sea lion branding operation at Oregon’s Port of Astoria. For the purposes of the permit, Co-Investigators are qualified to conduct authorized activities without on-site supervision of the permittee. The permit allows Tennis and others to capture, restrain, measure, weigh, patch, flipper tag and hot brand up to 300 adult and sub-adult male California sea lions annually. Nowhere in the entire 22 pages of NMFS Permit No. 13430 is it specified that the presence of Sea Shepherd volunteers should have any bearing on the “research” activities, yet on June 23, 2013 at 11:05 p.m., Tennis boasted in an open group on the social media platform Facebook, “This spring I drasticly [sic] increased my research efforts in Astoria all because the SS were watching. In fact we tagged more new animals in Astoria this last spring than any other spring in the history of the project.” You don’t have to take our word for it, here is the screenshot:

Facebook PostFacebook Post from Matt Tennis
Screenshot courtesy of www.facebook.com

Far from choosing the number of animals to brand based on sound science, Tennis instead appears to brand animals only to spite a group trying to assure their humane treatment. Sea Shepherd decries his comment as repugnant and calls on NMFS to immediately remove Tennis from Permit No. 13430 and any other position of responsibility associated with handling marine mammals. “It is despicable to think that a so-called researcher would make such a flagrant and inappropriate statement about something as serious as the hot branding of federally-protected marine mammals,” commented Scott West, Sea Shepherd’s Director of Intelligence and Investigations.

“Researcher” Matthew Tennis stands on a sea lion while branding him, Port of Astoria – March 28, 2013“Researcher” Matthew Tennis stands on a sea lion while branding him,
Port of Astoria – March 28, 2013
Photo: Sea Shepherd

From March 15 to May 31, 2013, Sea Shepherd’s Dam Guardians were on-site at the Port of Astoria and the Bonneville Dam to monitor and report on activities associated with trapping, hazing, branding and lethal removal of sea lions scapegoated for eating wild salmon (fish is their natural food) on the Columbia River. Over the course of the 2-1/2 month campaign, Dam Guardian volunteers observed Tennis conduct branding and hazing activities on multiple occasions at the Port of Astoria. Photos and videos captured by Dam Guardians show Tennis catching the fur of sea lions on fire and stepping on their fresh wounds with his dirty work boots.

Facebook postFacebook Post from Matt Tennis
Screenshot courtesy of www.facebook.com

Shortly after the conclusion of the 2013 Dam Guardian Campaign, Tennis lamented on Facebook about his lack of motivation to work in the absence of Sea Shepherd’s watchful volunteers. Apparently, without the scrutiny of the Dam Guardians and their cameras, the “researcher” whose job is funded with taxpayer dollars, has better things to do with his time. Tennis’ lack of professionalism, public comments and behavior speak volumes about the integrity of this so-called “research” program. He should be immediately relieved of his duties as a co-investigator on this federal permit. Sea Shepherd calls on its supporters to contact Donna Wieting, Director, NMFS Office of Protected Resources to politely urge the immediate removal of Matthew Tennis from NMFS Permit No. 13430:

Donna Wieting
Director, Office of Protected Resources
NOAA Fisheries
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
phone: 301-427-8400
Fax: 301-713-0376
donna.wieting@noaa.gov

One of the “research subjects” of NMFS Permit No. 13430One of the “research subjects” of NMFS Permit No. 13430
Photo: Sea Shepherd

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