Sea Shepherds want to herd Hondo

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1996:

SEATTLE––Hondo, the California sea lion
who ambushes salmon and steelhead at the base of the
Ballard Locks near Seattle, was back for the start of
this winter’s spawning runs, with others, and when
the National Marine Fisheries Service said it had no
money to capture and hold him throughout the spawning
season, as it did last year, at cost of $120,000,
shooting seemed imminent. But on January 25 the Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society put the killing on hold
by formally proposing to relocate Hondo and friends to
San Francisco Bay.
“Sea Shepherd has offered to pay this year’s
costs of temporary housing and immediate translocation
of sea lions to California,” said Sea Shepherd
Pacific Northwest coordinator Michael Kundu. “We
have legal permission from the San Francisco Bay
Commission to return these sea lions to California,”
their native waters.

The significance of the proposal is that the
NMFS authorization allowing the Washington State
Department of Fish and Wildlife to kill any sea lions
who jeopardize endangered fish runs also stipulates
that the sea lions––themselves a protected species––
must not be killed if a viable alternative is available.
“The WDFW has already indicated that
housing space is available at the Point Defiance Zoo in
Tacoma, and NMFS has the proper truck, which was
used in translocations in 1990 and 1994,” explained
Sea Shepherd director of international operations Lisa
DiStefano. “Of course the sea lions will return,” as in
the past, “but we are prepared to bring them right back
to California.”
Added a Sea Shepherd press release, “We
anticipate that the relocation will give the WDFW a
very important lesson in predator replacement ecology.
If Hondo and his band are removed, other sea lions
will take their place.”
“The real issue is implementing a permanent
solution,” Kundu finished. “Biologists have stated,
and we agree, that this involves building a sea lionproof
steelhead barrier at the base of the fish ladder.”
A similar conflict between sea lions and
spawning fish may be developing at Williamette Falls,
Oregon, where according to Friends of Animals
regional representative Ben White, “The feds have
authorized only a study. At this point, Oregon does
not have permission to either harass or kill sea lions.”
The Comox Chapter of the Steelhead Society
of British Columbia meanwhile applied to the
Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans for a
permit to kill 30 harbor seals they accuse of killing
salmon on the Puntledge River.
“Killing seals and sea lions is an idea that
will not likely go away,” said White. “As the effects
of years of habitat destruction and overfishing catch up
with us, destroying wildlife that eat fish will become
increasingly popular.”
White and a Sea Shepherd representative,
among others, testified on January 30 at a legislative
hearing on a Washington state bill (HB 2528) that
would allocate $350,000 toward killing a “statistically
significant” number of seals and sea lions to investigate
their stomach contents.
“The real intent of it,” charged White, “is to
kill some animals now and find a reason to kill many
more later. One representative was angry with me for
suggesting that the legislature is irresponsible for not
tackling real solutions, like removing dams from
spawning streams.”
While sea lions took the heat, federal budget
cuts forced the closure of several Oregon and
Washington salmon hatcheries. More than eight million
chinook were released prematurely, with little or
no chance of longterm survival.
Hatfield Consultants Inc., of British
Columbia, meanwhile warned in mid-January that chinook,
pinkeye salmon, and sockeye salmon are all at
risk of being fished to extinction in the Georgia Strait,
while fishers have been taking at least 65% of all the
cojo left in the strait each year since 1976.
Seals vs. fish
Lynda Hurst of the Toronto Star d o c umented
misrepresentation of scientific data pertaining
to fish and seals by former Canadian fisheries
minister Brian Tobin in a January 20 expose filling two
full pages. Tobin recently resigned, after tripling the
Atlantic Canada sealing quota, to seek the leadership
of Newfoundland. “Certainly no Department of
Fisheries and Oceans scientist thinks the seal had anything
to do with the fisheries’ collapse,” Dalhousie
University fishery biologist Jeffrey Hutchings told
Hurst. “All scientific efforts to find an effect of seal
predation on Canadian groundfish stocks have failed to
show any impact. Overfishing remains the only scientifically
documented problem.” In December, 97 scientists
from 15 nations signed a similar statement at the
11th Biennial Conference of the Biology of Marine
Mammals, held in Orlando, Florida.
McGill Students for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals and the Concordia Animal Rights
Association, both of Montreal, are planning a March
15 Parliament Hill protest against the Canadian seal
hunt. Info: >><<.

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