To begin with, they have both been the leading players in controversial environmental issues for the past several decades.
The gray wolves were exterminated at the urging of the federal government by the early 20th century. They were shot, poisoned and trapped into a state of virtual non-existence and then at the instance of environmental groups and varied public opinion, they were reinstated into society. Reintroduced into an area around Glacier National Park, around the Canadian border, the wolves have expanded their range from 200 square miles, to an area covering 113,000 miles and numerous states today. They have reached and are reproducing at such an alarming rate that they are being taken off the Endangered Species List as they continue to expand their range for sustainable food sources. They will now be managed by the states in which they reside.
California sea lions have experienced a similar population cycle. In 1930 their numbers were 1,000 on the West Coast; 10,000 during the 50s; in 1995 the population was 188,000 and in 2008 it is estimated to be 354,500 mammals under the protection of the Marine Mammals Act of 1972. The population continues to expand at a rate of 5 percent per year.
The California sea lion lives an average of 15 to 25 years. A male sea lion at the age of 10, averages about 8,800 pounds of food a year, consisting of salmon, herring, anchovies, whiting and squid - a female consumes about 3,600 pounds a year. With a population of 350,000 mammals, you do the math. They are not only eating salmon returning up the Columbia but they are chomping them in the ocean as well. Biologists estimate that they are feeding on 4 percent of the runs in the river (that is based on what is observed) plus what they take in the ocean only reinforces our declining salmon returns.
Fish biologists on the West Coast agree that California sea lions are near "carrying capacity" meaning that they have reached a number that the West Coast environment can sustain. Like the gray wolf, it is time to take the California sea lion out from under the protection of the Marine Mammals Act to enable the endangered and threatened species of salmon and steelhead to continue to exist.
Recipe for disasterA 16-foot aluminum boat, three men not wearing life jackets and a crabpot line in the prop - that's what it took to capsize the recreational boat out of Hammond, Ore., on Saturday afternoon. Two bodies were recovered, a third person is still missing.
Ron Malast is skipper of the charter boat Big Dipper operating out of Sea Sport Fishing Charters in Ilwaco at 665-3573 or 866-211-6611.