After Three Days and Dozens of Calls to State and Local Agencies by Dam Guardians, Staff and Supporters Worldwide, a Marine Biologist Visits “Hope”

Dam Guardian Frances meets with the marine biologistDam Guardian Frances meets with the marine biologist
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Three days after Sea Shepherd’s Dam Guardians began requesting help for “Hope,” the injured sea lion, branded with the number 781, a marine biologist working with Portland State University Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN) in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) arrived on the scene at approximately 2:00 pm yesterday to assess the beleaguered animal, but did not provide any treatment. This, after Sea Shepherd Headquarters received word that someone from the MMSN would check on the animal on Wednesday afternoon, but it is unclear as to whether that happened, as the Dam Guardians on site never saw anyone arrive and no one made themselves known to the Dam Guardians guarding “Hope.”

The Dam Guardians, who are on the scene at the Port of Astoria to document the ongoing harassment and killing of sea lions for the crime of eating salmon along the Columbia River, found the wounded sea lion at the Port in the East Basin at approximately 4:00 pm Monday afternoon. In the hope that the Dam Guardians could obtain some assistance to treat the sea lion before it was too late, they quickly dubbed him, “Hope.” The sea lion appears to have a fresh, bleeding gunshot or puncture wound on his back along with splattered yellow paint on his fur. The area along the riverbanks where he was found is riddled with jagged glass and sharp metal objects which could have injured the animal or he could have been the victim of assault. While he has moved a bit, he has mostly remained in a small region of the river since he was found. His breathing is labored, at times he’s had difficulty hauling out, and keeping his head above water.

Two female Dam Guardians on the scene have kept a vigil by “Hope’s” side since he was found and have had to endure harassment from hostile individuals who stated their intent to harm the animal. In one instance, they put their bodies between an angry man and the injured sea lion to protect the animal from being kicked and attacked. They have filed police reports about the incident. Many locals mistakenly blame the sea lions for the decline in Columbia River salmon, when data shows they historically eat less than 1.6% of salmon in the river — last year eating just 0.6% — while human predation and the Bonneville Dam turbines, to name just two reasons for the decline, together claim at least 34%.

The Dam Guardians first reported “Hope’s” condition to Oregon authorities when the animal was found on Monday. Due to the state’s policy of “no rehab,” it took a great deal of effort and many phone calls from supporters to the Governor’s office, NOAA and MMSN to get anyone to visit “Hope.” The Dam Guardians also tried calling the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Oregon Dept of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) but these government agencies have not offered direct assistance to the distressed animal.

The marine biologist takes down notes of her observationsThe marine biologist takes down notes of her observations of Hope
Photo: Sea Shepherd

“When a call about a marine mammal in distress is received in California, the response time is roughly 30 minutes to one hour,” said Ashley Lenton Dam Guardian on the ground Campaign Leader and former marine wildlife rehabber. “How is it possible it’s taken three days for anyone to look at “Hope” in Oregon and, finding the animal in horrific condition, they still won’t do anything to help him?”

Sea Shepherd proposed to NOAA that in the absence of them providing any treatment for “Hope,” it would like to obtain permission to bring in its own licensed marine mammal specialist at its own cost to assess and treat the animal. However, Sea Shepherd was warned that under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, any unauthorized disturbance of the animal could be considered harassment, which means the organization could be prosecuted for trying to assist.

“Agencies like NOAA, NMFS, Oregon Dept of Fish & Wildlife, Columbia River Inter Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Dept of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services, and the Bonneville Power Administration are all very responsive when it’s time to relentlessly haze, brand, capture and ultimately kill these innocent animals at taxpayer expense,” said Lenton. “But somehow there is no funding or infrastructure to take care of a federally protected animal in need? If federally protected animals are not safe in Oregon, no wild animal is safe anywhere.”

In the absence of any government agency intervening to assist this injured sea lion, the Dam Guardians will be maintaining a vigil with “Hope” until he gets the help he needs or until the bitter end.

Hope (#781) bleeds from the wound in its shoulderHope (#781) bleeds from the wound in its shoulder
Photo: Sea Shepherd

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