Hordes of hungry sea lions have taken over fishermen’s docks at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin. Male sea lions, emerging in the thousands to feed on salmon climbing Columbia River fish ladders, have become a major threat to both the endangered salmon species and the livelihoods of commercial fishermen.
On Jan. 5, the Sea Lion Committee of the Port Commission of Astoria met to address the growing problem. Though county commissioners and both private and commercial fishermen stuck to a vehemently anti-sea lion agenda, a contingent from the Sea Lion Defense Brigade was also present.
Defenders called on the rest of the representatives to take pity on the sea lions, which have moved in on human territory by no fault of their own. Though no longer present on the endangered species list, these pinnipeds have been forced out of the ocean and into our rivers due to climate changes resulting from global warming.
Despite the efforts of environmentalists to devise a humane method of removing sea lions from the area, many Astorian officials are at their wits’ end. The National Marine Fisheries Service’s Marine Mammals Protection Act of 1972 is to blame for the lack of control over the animals, argued port commissioners.
Going up against the feds is costly, especially when the Astorian port has already lost money due to increased maintenance costs at the East Basin. Committee members discussed alternatives to suing the government, some of which included direct action against the sea lions themselves. According to a Jan. 6 report from The Daily Astorian, one representative’s simple advice was to “Kill ‘em.”
A second meeting was held on Jan. 19, and there, a possible solution was reached. The Port Commission approved the purchase of two “air dancers” to be placed on the docks to drive away the sea lions. Usually seen at car dealership sales, these giant, air-propelled, flopping tube figures will act as sea lion scarecrows.
So far, beach balls, paintball guns, electrified mats, and fake orcas have all failed Astorians in scaring away the sea lions, but committee members are hopeful that their air dancers will be a success.
By Kiki Genoa