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Sea Lions Return to Ore. Dam for Salmon

by Tim Fought, Associated Press
Ely Times & County, March 26, 2007

PORTLAND, Ore. - They're back. Much to the dismay of federal officials and fishermen, California sea lions have returned to the Bonneville Dam to feast on spring chinook salmon as they swim up the Columbia River to spawn.

But the same tactics have famously flopped in the past against the Californians, who, like the Stellers, are federally protected and seem to know it.

They prey on salmon that school up at the base of the dam waiting to go up the fish ladders toward spawning grounds.

"We don't know for sure where he might be," Diane Fredlund with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday.

Fredlund jokingly suggested showing C404's picture to salmon passing through and asking, "Have you seen this face?"

"We're doing harassment against any pinniped we see out there," said Fredlund. "If they show their flippers..."

"We're just making it a little uncomfortable for them. That's about all we can do at this point," Fredlund said.

For some reason, the Stellars have been easier to scare off.

California sea lions are protected under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Stellers are listed under the stricter Endangered Species Act.

Only in the last five years have the Stellers become a threat to sturgeons, Corrarino said.

By some accounts the California sea lions get about 3 percent of the salmon runs before the fish make it over the Bonneville fish ladders.

Animal protection groups say agricultural runoff, the dams themselves and damage to spawning grounds are far-greater threats than the sea lions to the fragile salmon runs, which have shrunk to a small fraction of their historic highs.

Tim Fought, Associated Press
Portland AP reporter Joseph B. Frazier contributed to this report.
Sea Lions Return to Ore. Dam for Salmon
Ely Times & County, March 28, 2007

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