Seals and sea lions can no longer be ignored in the effort to
recover our threatened Puget Sound chinook salmon or our endangered
new study shows that seals and sea lions are eating about 1.4
million pounds of Puget Sound chinook each year — about nine times
more than they were eating in 1970, according to the report. Please
read the story I wrote for the Encyclopedia
of Puget Sound, also published in an abridged version in the
Seals and sea lions in Puget Sound get the first chance to catch
the chinook as they leave the streams and head out to the ocean.
Since they are eaten at a very young age, these small chinook,
called “smolts,” never grow into adults; they never become
available for killer whales or humans.
Based on rough estimates, as many as one in five of these young
fish are getting eaten on their way out of Puget Sound. If they
were to survive the seals and sea lions and one factors in the
remaining mortality rate, these fish could translate into an
average of 162,000 adult chinook each year. That’s twice the number
eaten by killer whales and roughly six times as many as caught in
Puget Sound by tribal, commercial and recreational fishers
combined, according to the study.
Navy officials have approved a plan to deploy specially trained
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions to protect
the Navy’s submarine base at Bangor.
Roger Natsuhara, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for
installation and environment, signed the record of
decision (PDF 1.7 mb) on Wednesday. Check the document for
official details about the program.
Reporter Ed Friedrick wrote a story about the decision for
Thursday’s Kitsap Sun. His article includes the following
description of how the Navy plans to use the marine mammals.
The dolphins, accompanied by handlers in small power boats, will
work at night. If they find an intruder, they’ll swim back to the
boat and alert the handler, who will place a strobe light on a
dolphin’s nose. It will race back and bump the intruder’s back,
knocking the light off. The light will float to the surface,
marking the spot. The dolphin will swim back to the boat, join the
handler, and they’ll clear out as security guards speed to the
strobe to subdue the intruder.
Sea lions can carry in their mouths special cuffs attached to
long ropes. If they find a suspicious swimmer, they clamp the cuff
around the person’s leg. The intruder can then be reeled in.
The dolphins’ sonar is better than any that man has made and
they’re best for moving quickly in open water. Sea lions can see
and hear better underwater and are better for shallower work around