The Inevitable Fight

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Today’s highlighted article describes a battle I always enjoy watching. Willamette River Steelhead Face Extinction Due to Sea Lion Depredation is the title and it starts like this:

“One of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest’s iconic fish, native steelhead trout, have been migrating over Willamette Falls in Portland to spawn in Cascade Mountain rivers for millenia. They are now at high risk of going extinct, based on a new analysis by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

Here’s the down and dirty – steelhead, which are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are on the menu for sea lions, which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Environmentalists and wildlife management folks just hate it when the natural world refuses to play nice!

So what is the problem?

The steelhead were listed in 1999 under the ESA. According to this article there have been “significant regional investments in recovery efforts.” They also indicated that this year a total of “only 512” fish passed the checkpoint for counting. The sea lion is a major culprit in the fish’s risk of going extinct. This is “a new and growing threat,” this situation is an “emergency,” and doing something about sea lions is “essential” to “support the success of long-term recovery efforts.”

Those are interesting statements. However, the article also says that wildlife managers saw this coming “for about a decade,” that sea lion populations are “robust,” and that congress-critters and “stakeholders” are ready for “swift action” to pass more legislation.

This is what isn’t being said:

A problem that has been known for over a decade is not an emergency, swift action is not necessary, and new laws are the last thing we need.

After two decades of special management and significant investment, a total of 500 fish doesn’t speak well for the future of this Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of steelhead. By the way, a DPS is not a species, it is a small portion of a species. These 500 fish are not the sum total of steelhead by any stretch of the imagination and it’s time we quit pretending that steelhead will disappear if we quit spending exorbitant sums on “protection.” The “investment” isn’t paying off.

Sea lions are not endangered, never were, and they also do not need expensive protection. Unless you start serving up meals for sea lions as an alternative to what nature has provided, killing a few will not keep more from coming and dining on those delicious fish.
The supposed problem is not a problem. The proposed solution is not a solution. Next…

That’s the view from here.

Author: Daniel D. Lamoreux

As an outdoor writer and freelance photographer, Dan's publishing credits include articles and/or photographs in more than 40 state, regional and national publications and he has authored three books. His expertise on the subject matter has been developed from over 40 years experience pursuing the outdoor sports.

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