Why Are Sea Lions and Seals Taking Oregon River Mouths by Storm?

by Owen James Burke

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There are over 2,000 sea lions in a single mooring basin in Astoria, Oregon. Photo: Theresa Tillson/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

A record number of an estimated 300,000 sea lions are lining Oregon’s shores, while down the coast in Southern California pups are washing up dead. What gives?

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There are over 6,000 seals at the mouth of the Columbia River. Photo: Steve Jeffries/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

For one thing, warmer waters are pushing seal populations north, and sardines, their staple, further offshore. This means that mothers have to venture farther out to forage and in many cases, abandon their pups.

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Sea lions have taken over the boat docks in Astoria, Oregon’s East Mooring Basin. Photo: Steve Jeffries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Along the Columbia River up north, smelt populations are exploding, and a salmon run is to follow. Because of the massive numbers of sea lions, state officials are considering giving Native Americans the right to harvest them, largely in an effort to protect precious fish stocks, which, really, could go either way as a result.

Listen to the story below, and read more at OPB. — OJB

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