In Oregon, wildlife officials say relocating California sea lions is not preventing them from destroying steelhead runs.
The fish return to their natal river to spawn and die, but seals travel from California up the Columbia and Willamette rivers to the Willamette Falls near Oregon City. They feast on the steelhead trapped beneath the falls.
The steelhead run has dropped from 15,000 fish 30 years ago to 512 wild winter steelhead this year. The sea lions are eating so many winter steelhead at Willamette falls, that some runs may go extinct.
Transporting the seals didn’t work. Some relocated to the ocean swam back upstream to the falls in a few days. So, now wildlife officials are trapping and killing the sea lions.
The seals breed off southern California and northern Mexico. In the 60’s there were 30,000 seals. Now, their numbers are close to 300,000. That’s because of the 1972 marine mammal protection act.
The population increase is one of the reasons the sea lions are swimming further inland up the Columbia river and its tributaries in Oregon and Washington.