In September of 2020 there was a proposal approved by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to remove 716 Steller’s sea lions from the Columbia River. It remains one of the most controversial decisions recently in Southern California. The decision was made in favor of conserving the populations of salmon and steelhead, both of which are on the brinks of extinction. Sea lions that follow the running fish into the Columbia and Snake rivers are very keen on consuming large amounts of the them. They essentially corner them into dams that bottleneck them and allow the predatory mammals to get an easy meal. There are currently 13 runs of fish at risk of getting gobbled up by the sea lions that are some of the last in the wild. The program is meant to be as humane as possible however there is quite the risk for any people getting involved in the sterilization of the population. California sea lions average out at about 6 feet and can weight about 550-700 pounds, and while they are dangerous their close cousin the Steller sea lion is another beast. Up to 12 feet long and weighing nearly 2500 pounds these absolute units of seals have the profiles of submarines when they move through the water. They are particularly aggressive and have nasty teeth which makes them problematically difficult to kill due to firearms being prohibited against them. The goal of the project is not to make a huge scene with a bunch of drunk guys driving around with cut fish and blasting anything that chases it with a shotgun, so they have resorted to using sterilizing serum to humanely pass them away. After the marine mammal act of 1972 it is illegal to kill any marine mammal for sport and some argue that this proposition did just that, as more sea lions have taken the places of the ones already killed. It realistically didn’t put a dent in the population of sea lions but it did teach us that there must always be another way.
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