Go net yourself

Sometimes people are so goofy that it becomes downright repulsive. I know the Dam Guardians think they recently did some good, but the reality is that they failed miserably.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Dam Guardians recently did their utmost to disrupt a sea lion capture project conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at the Bonneville Dam near the Port of Astoria. It was there that professional biologists were netting sea lions for the purpose of learning more about their movements and feeding habits within the Columbia River.

Watching over the endeavor was the Dam Guardians, funded by Greenpeace, and obviously determined to portray the biologists as thugs and indiscriminate killers of friendly wildlife. The Dam Guardians fired off an inflammatory e-mail to members of the media far and wide, describing what they said was brutal and painful treatment of captured sea lions.

One of the lions, they said, was twitching in excruciating pain. Another, sea lion No. 349, named “Justice” by the Guardians, was said to be completely incapacitated. A Guardian’s spokesman said “Justice was tortured and died,” paid for with taxpayer dollars. Oregon Fish and Wildlife says the sea lion resurfaced and is alive.

The Guardians claim they “dutifully documented the horrors befalling the federally protected animals for the crime of eating salmon.”

Crime? The sea lions have not been charged with a crime. They are not scheduled for a court appearance. They are not “scapegoats” either.

Give me a break! We all enjoy and care about wildlife, sea lions included. We also understand that professional biologists have not formed some kind of sea lion hit squad. I’m sure they are working for the benefit of the sea lions and the salmon.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife personnel successfully captured and branded 38 sea lions. The branding is for the purpose of identifying the lions if they should be seen or captured in the future. Even if one sea lion didn’t make it through the trapping process, and that report is disputed, it is not shocking or out of the norm when it comes to handling wild animals. To say that mistreatment by trained biologists is the cause of death shows that the Dam Guardians are woefully misinformed.

Biologists need to acquire information about the Columbia sea lions for management purposes, which is to insure that the sea lions remain part of a balanced ecosystem. Oregon and Washington have been authorized to harvest about 23 sea lions per year through 2016, a number considered sufficient enough to reduce the sea lions ravenous intake of endangered salmon. Yet, they elect to educate themselves about the sea lions’ behavior by trapping and tagging.

True, someone needs to stand up for wildlife because wildlife has no voice. However, it is the biologists who will find a solution. The Dam Guardians will not.

It may be that the biologists’ nets are targeting the wrong group.