Sea Lions are a big problem for Oregon’s Chinook salmon and steelhead population around this time of year. In an effort to deter depredation, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) came up with rather novel idea to fend off the marine mammals by using fireworks.

According to a release by the department, DFW crews are loading specially designed fireworks onto the Willamette Falls fish ladder and on boats in an effort to steer sea lions away from fish congregation areas. The crews will then sheep dog the animals to a mile downstream on the Willamette River where they can snack on other less vulnerable species. The project is part of a three-year program to explore non-lethal methods of dealing with the voracious fish eaters.

“Our purpose is to try to protect the listed salmon and steelhead from sea lion predation,” said Tom Murtagh, lead project ODFW fish biologist.

The hazing operation will soon be a common sight in the area. Murtagh’s project  takes place seven days a week from early February to April 30. The California sea lions that frequent the river are seasonal visitors to Oregon and often invade nearby rivers to feed. They are superb swimmers and have slender bodies well-suited to Oregon’s many waterways. Department biologists hope that without the interference of the sea lions, Oregon anglers can look forward to a bountiful season in the Willamette River.

Image courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

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