The Sea Lions of Astoria



Sea lion deterrent

We arrived in Astoria, Oregon on the first of September to a harbor infested with sea lions. Several of the docks are sinking under the weight of thousands of huge animals. The first order of business was to build a visual deterrent to keep the beasties off the boat.

When we arrived a large sailboat, a few slips down, had three sea lions on her coach roof which was sagging under their weight. They had climbed from the dock onto the boat.
The sea lions bark constantly, 24/7, the only way to sleep on your boat is with construction earplugs. Lying awake you can almost hear the words. Their voices seem to consist of about 6 notes, the notes are “barked” in a series of up to about 5. In my mind the notes are letters and each series of barks a word. I imagine the conversation to be something like. Hey you are lying on me fatso. I was here first. Make room. I’m bigger than you. Arp aarp urp. They make up for content with constancy.
Imagine the shock of finding a 5 foot tall sea lion standing in your path on the head float at night. Intimidating to say the least. They do eventually give way by jumping into the water. Interestingly a barrier of construction ribbon on a wooden stake about 18 inches high was enough to keep a thousand pound sea lion from coming onto the dock. As soon as a stake is knocked over however, all bets are off and they scramble to make themselves comfortable.
The sea lions are a hot topic in Astoria. There is a Sea Lion Preservation committee that wants the port to abandon the Marina to the creatures. They post “observers” on the causeway every day to watch for wrong doing against the sea lions. On weekends depending on the weather, as many as 100 tourists come to view the sea lions. The port tries to charge them $5.00 for parking, but most do not pay.
Pro sea lion forces want the port to abandon the marina including its est. $100M sea wall. They claim that any damage to the fishery is more than offset by the vast increase in tourist revenue brought by the sea lion “attraction.”
Anti-sea lion forces claim that sea lions have decimated the salmon runs killing salmon by biting out just the belly of the fish, apparently the best part. A man who dove on our boat to inspect our zincs told me he used to be a commercial fisher and had enjoyed killing “hundreds” of sea lions, sometimes leaving them draped on navigation buoys where they had hauled out.
Both sides of the issue are rabid in their beliefs. Meanwhile the government brands the sea lions as they appear and have a program to cull the greedy ones. Pro sea lion forces claim a relentless slaughter but I read somewhere that the program had killed a total of 50 sea lions in the life of the program….years.

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