Since April, 20 sea lions have washed up dead in Oregon and Washington. EarthFix’s Ashley Ahearn reports the majority of the animals were shot.
The dead sea lions have been found mainly near the mouth of the Columbia River, a hot spot for salmon. Many believe the animals are being killed by fishermen who view them as competition for their catch.
Sean Stanley is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement in Portland. He says people who shoot sea lions face up to $20,000 in fines and a year in prison. But they’re tough cases to crack.
Stanley: “Public help is the single largest way in which we catch people who shoot sea lions or violate the marine protection act.”
Sea lions are federally protected. But wildlife managers are allowed to kill the ones that eat salmon at Bonneville dam on the Columbia River. Conservationists fear that sets a bad example for the fishermen and others who interact with these animals elsewhere.
If you have information about sea lion deaths call 1 800 853 1964.
Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio