This is a pretty complicated Sophie’s Choice-esque eco-problem brewing in the Columbia River at the base of the Bonneville Dam, in the Pacific Northwest. California sea lions are protected. But they eat Chinook salmon and steelhead, which are also protected. So, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has given the states of Washington and Oregon permission to kill the sea lions. Which is really sad, especially when you look at the picture of the thing and it’s so darn cute. Culling was a last resort. Officials already tried scaring the California sea lions away from the fish ladders at the base of the dam, but the animals were too busy snacking to notice. So 11 of them have been shipped off to zoos and aquariums (yay!), and a further 40 have gotten whacked (boo!).
The plot thickens: Now that some of the California sea lions have been, uh, eliminated, there is room/food for more Steller sea lions, and they’re eating all the salmon that were supposed to be saved by reducing the number of California sea lions. Steller sea lions are also protected, and so far, officials are prevented from trying to “remove” them (yes, this means kill! These officials talk like mobsters!), but that might change. After all, as much as sea lions love salmon, humans might love it more. Plus, we have guns.
As you can see this problem at the Bonneville Dam is one of those you are dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t situations. THANK YOU GOODNIGHT
Protected sea lions gorge on threatened salmon, Nature.