We authorized the killing of 92 California sea lions at the Bonneville fish ladder. Sea lion predation kills one to four percent of the salmon runs, while our own fisheries kill 17 percent and about 7-16 percent of the adult salmon run are killed by the dams during their run up the Columbia/Snake and that's not factoring in the absolute slaughter of the Columbia/Snake sockeye run this year due to lethally hot water behind all those dams due to a low snow pack and drought in the basin. We lost 80-90 percent of the sockeye run this year due factors that were exacerbated by the presence of the dams. The coho run was affected, quite frankly all of the runs were affected by lethal water temperatures caused by the one-two punch of drought and slackwater reservoirs.
The bird slaughter in the name of saving salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Estuary where our own actions created the problem in the first place is the epitome of tragic comedy. First, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needed a place to dump all that sand they were dredging in the lower Columbia to make the Port of Portland accessible. So they augmented a speck of sand that we call East Sand Island today. The Caspian terns and later the cormorants noticed this augmented island was now to their liking and they began to make a home. The Corps noticed this and moved them to an island upstream, but then decided that East Sand Island was a better location for this growing colony of birds. Over the years, since the 1980s, this augmented, largely man-made island, turned into the Nirvana for bird watchers. Various and thousands of cormorants, terns, pelicans, gulls began nesting there. That attracted eagles, who mostly were interested in the easy prey of nests left alone for too long, who were not above taking an easy fish here or there. All of the sudden we had created a problem for the smolts preparing to enter the ocean that hadn't been that way for eons until we started dumping sand. Anywhere for 2-17 percent of the outmigrating salmonids are eaten by birds in the estuary. About 11 million fish are consumed, though U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists agree that those fish would be eaten by other predators anyway.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service authorized the killing of 10,000 cormorants and the destruction of 26,000 cormorant nests on East Sand Island in spite of the fact their own biologists concluded that killing cormorants will not help salmon in the Columbia River Basin.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations received documents through the discovery process in a lawsuit that shows the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is ignoring its own science and going ahead with the killing of cormorants even though it wouldn't help salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin. Here's a quote from this site...
"Scientists with the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in a 2014 report that salmon and steelhead mortality due to cormorant predation is “completely compensatory.” This means that fish eaten by the birds would have died anyway of other causes — primarily consumed by fish and other predators — making it worthless to kill cormorants to increase salmon and steelhead runs."
Just last week 510 cormorants were killed and thus far, some 5,089 nests have been oiled. The process of egg oiling is described in this quote from this site
" Egg oiling involves the use of liquid paraffin BP to coat the shell of the egg in order to stop the embryo from developing. Liquid paraffin BP is a white mineral oil, commonly known as paraffin oil, which is available from chemists in small quantities or from chemical suppliers in 500 ml+ bottles for larger applications. When an egg is removed from the nest and fully immersed in liquid paraffin BP the oil blocks the pores of the egg, coating the underlying egg membrane and depriving the fertilised egg of oxygen. In order for the process to be completely effective the whole of the egg must be coated leaving no gaps or ‘dry’ areas."
So, here we are hiring people to shoot 10,000 birds and to oil thousands of nests so we can say we were doing something about the loss of 2-17 percent of the outmigrating juvenile salmonids in the Columbia/Snake. Well, as I pointed out earlier today it is pretty clear we lose 35 percent of the outmigrating smolts before they reach the first dam, Lower Granite, how many of those are slaughtered in the reservoir behind that dam, I don't know. How many are eaten by nonnative fish that we dumped in the Snake River such as smallmouth bass and walleye, a significant amount, but I don't know the exact number. Surely several die from risks that have always been there for wild salmonids of the Snake River Basin. We then lose another 40 percent of the outmigrating population as they traverse the dams.
Once again, we are punishing some other species who have a much smaller impact on salmonids than we do. It's exactly the same response we have with wolves in Idaho. Wolves and let's go ahead and add mountain lions and bears to the mix; all of those apex predators in all of their elk and deer kills don't come close to the carnage of one Idaho hunting season. I'm not against hunting, but this idea that somehow mankind's impact on nature should be held harmless and other creatures should foot our bill is wrong on so many levels. First and foremost, it is unsustainable and we will never restore wild salmonids if we continue to look at the problem in the way we approach it today. Secondly, it is morally wrong to arbitrarily kill off other animals whose impact is far less than our own, while we continue our variously damaging practices unabated.
I have left so much out that we do that has had little to no effect in reversing the tide of Snake River wild salmonid's march toward extinction, such as the bounty on the native species northern pikeminnow, but rest assured there is a solution and currently we are not choosing to solve the restoration of wild salmonids in the Snake River Basin. Instead we are doing everything but that which will work.
On October 3, a bunch of us are going to get in our boats and paddle around Lower Granite Reservoir, take a group photo and send the Obama Administration a visual aid to go along with the 70,000 signatures on that petition we all signed to have those four lower Snake River dams removed. I think you should go to this site (www.freethesnake.com) and register and come be with us on October 3.