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Friday, May 16, 2008

Sea Lion Deaths on Columbia River

When 4 California sea lions and 2 endangered stellar sea lions were found dead on the Columbia River National Marine Fisheries Service officials reported that the animals had been shot. However, it's clear now they died from heat exhaustion and panic after being trapped by a state fisheries program designed to protect the salmon. An autopsy concluded the animals had been in the cages for too long a time; a combination of the sixty-degree weather and their heightened agitation and stress due to the confined space and captivity caused their deaths.

National media attention focused on the initial report of a shooting with high hopes of finding the responsible party. It was assumed the perpetrator was an angry commercial fisherman and by all accounts authorities were anxious to make an example of him. The noose was tied; the rope strung over a limb. Turns out it wasn't an angry, vicious act at all. It was more a matter of passive conservation management; maybe it was even a negligence issue.

Meanwhile, a Southern California fisherman (not sure if he was commercial or recreational) was given 3 years probation and 200 hundred hours of community service following his trial for stabbing a sea lion through the heart. The animal had stolen his bait and his response was to jump it a stab it repeatedly with a large steak knife. People in the area witnessed the attack and called the police. He was facing a $20,000 fine and 1 year in jail. Lucky for him his sentencing came a day after the coroner's report in Oregon determined that state officials and not some mad fisherman with a rifle had inadvertently killed the 6 sea lions on the Columbia River.


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