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USOregon Begins Killing Sea Lions in Bid to Save Fish Population

06:20  11 january  2019
06:20  11 january  2019 Source:   usnews.com

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Oregon wildlife officials have started killing California sea lions that threaten a fragile and unique type of trout in the Willamette River, a body of water that's miles The state Department of Fish and Wildlife obtained a federal permit in November to kill up to 93 California sea lions annually below Willamette

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Oregon Begins Killing Sea Lions in Bid to Save Fish Population© ullstein bild via Getty Images California sea lions are threatening a population of steelhead trout in Oregon.

Oregon wildlife officials have started killing California sea lions that threaten a fragile run of winter steelhead, a type of trout, after years of non-lethal methods proved ineffective.

The state obtained a federal permit in November to kill up to 93 sea lions below an area called Willamette Falls after analysis showed that the carnivorous mammals were likely to cause the extinction of runs of steelhead. The state needed a permit because the mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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The sea lions are a target because of their voracious appetite for threatened and endangered fish . They gobble up so many winter steelhead at Willamette Falls, south of Portland, that state biologists say there’s a 90 percent chance the fish run will go extinct. If granted a special permit from the federal

As of Thursday morning, four sea lions had been removed from the area and killed, according to The Oregonian. Officials expect to kill 40 to 50 sea lions by May, when the mammals typically return to the ocean, Sheanna Steingass, the state's marine mammal program leader, told the news outlet.

Steelhead are rainbow trout that behave like salmon. They're born in freshwater and migrate to the ocean, returning to freshwater to reproduce.

Adult male sea lions, which can weigh half a ton, linger around the falls and feast on the fish. Last winter, a record-low 512 winter steelhead journeyed past Willamette Falls, compared to more than 15,000 about 30 years ago, according to the Associated Press.

The falls area is located on the Willamette River about 10 miles south of Portland, Oregon, and is more than a hundred miles upriver from coastal areas where sea lions typically feed.

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It's a frustrating dance between California sea lions and wildlife managers that's become all too familiar in recent months. The bizarre survival war has intensified recently as the sea lion population rebounds and fish populations decline in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon wildlife managers are trapping sea lions at Willamette Falls and trucking them out to the coast in an effort to protect a very fragile run of steelhead. At that rate, they say, there’s about a 90 percent chance at least one population of the fish will go extinct. Bryan Wright, a biologist with the Oregon

Wildlife officials have tried other methods to keep sea lions out of the area. Exclusion gates have been installed at the entrances to fish ladders at the falls, and the mammals have been hazed with firecrackers and underwater explosives, according to The Oregonian.

Officials have also tried to relocate the mammals to the coast but found the sea lions made the long journey back upstream in a matter of days.

Officials in the past have been permitted to kill sea lions in the Columbia River, from which Willamette River branches off. From 2008 to 2017, some 160 sea lions were removed and killed, according to the state wildlife department.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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