The population of salmon is declining in the Columbia River in the state of Washington. Sea lions are wrongfully being blamed for the decline in salmon. Federal officials have authorized the killing of about 716 sea lions for following their natural course: eating salmon.
“Salmon have been going up rivers to spawn for thousands of years. Humans have constructed dams and locks across the river (blocking fish to go up). We have caught them in fisheries, which led to the dramatic decline of the salmon run. Several of them are listed as endangered”, says Sharon Young, senior strategist for marine issues at the animal welfare organization The Humane Society for the United States.
Killing them is not going to fix anything because the real problems the fish are facing are “they can’t get through the dams, their habitat is being degraded and they’re being fished out by other sources,” Young says.
Sharon is disgusted by the fact that the dams are still there, fishing is still going on, farming is dumping soil into the rivers; all of those things are causing the salmon population to decline, but those are not changing. Instead, sea lions, who are not the main problem, are being killed.
“They will kill several hundred sea lions, but many others will take their place and follow them upstream. The real problem is that they can’t remove the dams,” Young says. Federal authorities plan on trapping these sea lions in cages and euthanizing them using lethal injections.
On being asked about a viable solution to this problem, Sharon gives different options. For example, “in the snake river, there are a number of dams that produce almost no power. They have been there for a really long time and there are other sources of power available other than the dams. Removing these dams could dramatically help the fish without the need to kill sea lions.”
For areas where removing the dams is not possible, Sharon suggests that water management techniques can be utilized and the water flow in dams could be adjusted to make an easier passage for the salmon.