Dam Guardians Witness Sea Lions Almost Drown in Trap And Their Backs Catch Fire From Branding

Under the stress of the 30+ sea lions and the ODFW worker, the trap began to sinkUnder the stress of the weight 30+ sea lions and the ODFW worker, the trap began to sink
Photo: Frances Holtman / Sea Shepherd
Starting at roughly 7:00 am PST today, more than 30 sea lions including babies were captured in a floating trap down by the pier at the Port of Astoria, according to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Dam Guardians, who are on the ground along the Columbia River to document the horrors befalling these federally protected animals for the crime of eating salmon. The large number of sea lions captured is primarily due to the trap being one of the few places for the sea lions to haul out in the area. Due to the sheer numbers of animals crammed into the trap and the additional weight of one of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) workers standing on the side of the trap, the trap began to sink and several animals were caught in a panic when the cage was mostly submerged for too long and they almost drowned.

After this, the animals were pushed through a tunnel and into a squeeze cage one-by-one to be marked by branding. During the extremely painful branding process, which utilizes liquid nitrogen and a hot iron, the backs of several of the sea lions actually caught fire as the iron sizzled into their flesh and yellowish-white plumes of smoke rose from their bodies. The branded animals, including babies, could be heard screaming in pain. The Dam Guardians witnessed several sea lions go into shock and start to convulse following the branding process, which finally ended at approximately 1:30 pm PST, after the marine mammals endured more than six hours of this torture. As if the branding was not traumatic enough, they were then tagged with white markers.

ODFW brands a sea lion to the point where it bursts out in flamesODFW brands a sea lion to the point where it burst into flames
Photo: Aaron Hall / Sea Shepherd

“These animals are being tortured and many will be killed simply for eating,” said Ashley Lenton, on site Dam Guardian Campaign Leader. “The sea lions are part of the Columbia River landscape and have been since the time of the Lewis & Clark expeditions. This is as much their home as it is ours,” she said. “Oregon and Washington officials need to wake up and stop blaming ‘federally protected’ sea lions for their own mismanagement of salmon populations. They have been made into scapegoats and are not the dam problem,” she added.

The Dam Guardians campaign kicked off March 15th and is Sea Shepherd’s second sea lion defense campaign along the Columbia River. Up to 368 California sea lions face execution by Oregon and Washington state workers for the crime of eating endangered salmon on the Columbia River near the Bonneville Dam. The states are authorized to kill 92 of the federally protected pinnipeds annually through June 2016. The sea lions will be branded with hot irons, hazed with rubber bullets and explosives, and killed by lethal injection or shotgun for eating less than 4% of the salmon at the dam. All of this mayhem is conducted on the taxpayers’ dime while commercial, sport, and tribal fisheries are allowed to take up to 17% of the same endangered salmon and the dam itself claims approximately 17% of adult salmon.

The Dam Guardians will be on the ground at the Bonneville Dam and the Port of Astoria documenting this horrific scene and bringing it to the world thorough May 31, 2013. Sea Shepherd is asking concerned citizens to register their complaints with the Offices of the Governors of Wash. and Ore., donate to the effort or consider becoming a Dam Guardian. For more information, log onto “What You Can Do” at http://www.seashepherd.org/dam-guardians/

This man has proclaimed that he cares about the sea lions.  Yet he is the one who did the majority of the branding including setting multiple sea lions on fire.This man has proclaimed that he cares about the sea lions. Yet he is the one who did the majority of the branding including setting multiple sea lions on fire.
Photo: Andrew Lynch / Sea Shepherd

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