I was talking to a wise old fisherman this past week and we were discussing the fact that for years the fish and wildlife commissions of Oregon and Washington and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have been managing salmon and steelhead from only one end of the spectrum.
Yes, they are protecting native runs of both species and providing hatchery fish, but for what? What they are doing is providing fish fodder for the seals and sea lions and fish food for the birds. Take into account that just last month fish biologists admitted Caspian terns and cormorants eat approximately 12 million salmon and steelhead smolts each year. On March 15, fish managers of Oregon and Washington, in a letter to NMFS, predicted that California sea lions (1,000 of them) could kill as much as 10 percent of this year's spring Chinook steelhead run of 88,000 fish and that's only the upriver estimate.
Steve Williams, acting administrator of the Fish Division for the Oregon DF&W says the states will be using every hazing method available under federal law, including acoustic and percussive devices, flares, and rubber bullets. The new hazing activities begin April 1 from Bonneville Dam downstream approximately 12 miles to Marker 85. Washington and Oregon wildlife managers will seek federal authority and funding to remove a select number of problem sea lions from the river if hazing is determined to be unsuccessful. Removing sea lions, which could include both lethal and non-lethal methods, must be approved by the NMFS. If approved, the states' request is not expected to begin until after this year's hazing has been completed and assessed.
Jeff Koening, director of WDFW, said "Sea lion predation in the Columbia River is clearly a persistent problem that appears to be getting worse, and we need to seek federal authority to manage it, it is an important step in the right direction."
Sea lions have repeatedly been seen eating adult female sturgeon and while the Columbia River supports the largest healthy population of white sturgeon in the world, sea lions have the potential to severely deplete the number of mature female sturgeon. An adult sea lion can eat five to seven salmon per day and that can sure deplete a salmon run in a hurry.
Let's hope that federal agencies and Congress realize the impacts caused by sea lion predation and the negative impacts on local economies.
It's going to be an uphill battle, so please do not hesitate to let your congressmen know how you feel. You cannot sit back on this one.
Nautical Trivia & Phrases
Davit - Not used until 1811, this is the term used for the tackle on the main and foremost shrouds for hoisting heavy boats aboard ship. First called "davitt" by Capt. John Smith in 1626,. it is derived from David, since it was custom in those days to give proper names to implements. A few scholars have theorized that the true origin is related to the Biblical story of King David's son, Absalon, who was caught hanging from a tree branch by his hair.
Ron Malast is the owner and captain of the Ilwaco charter boat Big Dipper, 665-3573.