Letter to the Editor: We can wait no longer for a solution to the sea lion deprivation of salmon runs


As an avid fisherman of the Columbia River drainage and the Chehalis River system, it is apparent to me that we can wait no longer for a solution to the sea lion deprivation of salmon runs.

As documented by many anglers and the media this year, the highest interference with non-native California sea lions to our salmon returns is a major issue. Their take is no doubt unmeasurable but their impact is clear.

While fishing on the Lewis River within eyesight of the lower hatchery, I shared the fishing hole with four sea lions that were having much better luck than I. It was at that moment that I came up with an idea that is ironically turning the tables on the bad situation.

When investigating the ingredients to hatchery trout and salmon pellet food, I found that it contains many protein sources such as beef pork and chicken, none of which are found in the sea or normal fish diet. I believe it would be possible to replace those proteins and fats with that of these nuisance sea lions. If the sea lions contain as much rich fat as described, perhaps less of this material would be necessary to get the dietary needs of the fish accounted for and some of the other weed and other byproducts could be reduced.

I do not specialize in biology or in political affairs, but the only support I see potentially lacking are those that want to protect everything but complain when the salmon returns are reduced. If I understand the tribal rights correctly, they may be the ones allowed to harvest the animals and potentially to earn income as the product is sold to the hatcheries. The harvesting on the sea lions could be done in a sustainable way where a quota is met. It could be determined by the acceptable occasional spotting of a sea lion in the Columbia rather than a complete destination for thousands of these salmon belly eaters.

Many other fishermen have suggested making dog food or cat food from these beasts, but I find more satisfying the irony of feeding the salmon with the biggest predator.

I thank you for hearing my thoughts and I would gladly entertain yours. To the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, I appreciate the work you do in sustaining our fisheries and balancing that with the native people to our lands.

Dan Mikota