Use of Deadly Force Authorized Against Renegade Sea Lions

The deadliest force known to man—The Law of Unintended Consequences—has struck again. This time it has led to the deliberate slaughter of sea lions by armed agents of the U.S. Government.

What happened was this: A dam was built in Bonneville, east of Portland, Oregon. As dams will, it created a barrier for both water and anything else that would otherwise traverse the river. This “anything else” included fish, like salmon. And not just any salmon, chinook salmon.

Whiskers Malone

See, chinook salmon are one of the lucky few species protected by a law meant to preserve their breed: The Endangered Species Act. Somebody notices an animal, preferably photogenic, is low in number. If a bureaucracy in Washington D.C. agrees, through a mysterious process, that more of that animal is better than few, then the animal is placed on a list.

Once ensconced, all Heaven and Earth will be moved in an effort to keep that species a going concern. In this case, I mean that literally: the Earth was moved for the chinook. The Bonneville dam was shifted and modified to includ a “ladder”, a sort of stepped, inverse water slide, which the chinook (or other fish) could use to cross the dam.

But just like the water slide at your amusement park, the Bonneville Ladder created long lines of salmon waiting to take their turn.

Which wouldn’t be that bad—salmon do not have busy schedules—except the lingering fish attracted the attention of some sea lions, who, as do humans, find salmon a tasty treat. The feast began.

Now, salmon are stubborn, inflexible creatures. Any other species would see that gathering together in a shallow pool where the only line of escape is a single-file passage is not a brilliant move. They would move on. But the salmon stay; they come back year after year, and a lot of them find themselves in the bellies of sea lions.

Sea lions, however, are smart: they remember where and when the salmon will show. So they show, too. This is to the sea lions’ benefit, obviously. If they don’t have to worry about dinner, then they can concentrate on more important matters, like breeding. Their numbers are increasing.

But the sea lions, our government has decided, are breaking the law! Killing and eating chinook salmon, which are protected by the Endangered Species Act, is equivalent to murder, which is everywhere a crime (except under communism).

Many sea lions have been arrested! According to a San Jose Mercury News report, once the perpetrators are nabbed, they are held for 48 hours.

After they are processed, some of these sea lions are carted off to jail—in the form of aquariums, zoos or “similar” facilities. These sea lions are never heard from again. Some are let go with a warning.

But the killing spree has gotten so bloody—officers estimate 4,489 salmon were killed and eaten last year—that a most wanted list of the worst of the offenders has been created. These hardened, “repeat offenders” are “identified by scars” or by tattoos that they had carved into them when they were last in prison (“numbers that were branded on them by researchers”—a.k.a. marine criminologists).

SWAT teams have been dispatched to where renegade gangs of sea lions gather. These cops use standard riot control methods to disperse the population, such as “dropping bombs that explode under water, and firing rubber bullets and beanbags”.

This is sometimes not enough. Sometimes these confrontations devolve into pitched gun battles between the police and the recalcitrant sea lions. The fights never last long, mostly because the sea lions have not yet learned how to fire back.

These melees have taken their toll. Last year, 11 sea lions were shot and killed when they refused to stop eating salmon. So far this year, there has only been one deadly confrontation, when the sea lion “Whiskers Malone” was shot multiple times after showing his hind flipper to police.

Since spring has just sprung, more salmon will soon be gathering. And that means more arrests and probably more shootings. Police are advising that civilians give the dam a wide birth. This warning does not apply to certain tribal agencies, who will still be allowed to set up gill nets (to catch and eat salmon).

Now for the The Law of Unintended Consequences. Just like salmon, sea lions come in different models. Two of which are California sea lions and Stellar sea lions. California sea lions are a dime a dozen, but the Stellar sea lions, just like the chinook salmon, are blessed with the protection of the Endangered Species Act, and they are just as hungry as their cousins.

What to do? One Endangered Species is eating another Endangered Species. You can’t shoot the sea lions, and you also can’t not let them eat the salmon, but then you can’t let the salmon be eaten.

What a predicament!


  1. Frederick Davies

    What do you do in the face of so much stupidity: laugh or cry?

    “…through a mysterious process, that more of that animal is better than few…”
    There is the nub of the matter; how did something as asinine as the Endangered Species Act ever passed into law?

  2. Tulsa Jack

    Simple solution! 1) Spend $10-million to study the problem. 2) Hire the local congress-thing’s son at $500 per hour to write an official EPA report proposing a $50-million solution: two fish ladders, one for each kind of sea lion. 3) Ear-mark $100-million from the next federal debt limit extension bill, including the normal and customary 100% profit margin, for an Army Corps of Engineers no-bid contract to a local Democrat campaign contributor, in which the congress-thing is a shareholder, to install the segregated fish ladders. 4) Visit a convenient Wal-Mart parking lot to meet the contractor’s representative and receive a brown paper bag containing $100,00 in $100 bills for the local congress-thing’s personal expenses. 5) Gladly accept a $1-million campaign contribution to “help save the environment.” 6) Keep shooting sea lions, when the new separate fish ladders don’t work.

  3. It’s easy for you folk not living in neighborhoods where brutish sea lions abide to scoff and make light of this dire situation, but these animals are rude and obnoxious. We need more laws protecting endangered species – homo sapien is still a species, right? – instead of less. Who cares if there are unintended consequences? Have you ever had to live next to a bay or cove this gang of thugs has taken over and converted into their own outhouse? Time to visit the in-laws, I’ll tell you. For two or three months, sometimes. Oh, the agony. Oh, the odor.

    Book ’em, Danno.

  4. Dennis

    Maybe a wider (more than one lane) ladder. Maybe an underwater fence around the concentration area with easily accessed one-way gates for the fish. Maybe some common sense. Maybe some imagination.

  5. I love this post! It shows what ridiculous positions we put ourselves into by not thinking things through past the next weekend (or sometimes past the next few seconds). I agree we shouldn’t “let” the salmon go extinct (what if we find they’re our key to interstellar travel? And they’re gone!!!). But we shouldn’t be out there killing animals because they’re just doing what animals do. A better solution to the dam-ladder needs to be found that will remove the incentive for sea lions to gather there. Even if some salmon still get eaten, we can’t and shouldn’t try to retaliate against the sea lions. I’m not that kind of engineer, but it doesn’t seem like all that hard a problem.

    BTW Briggs: I wait with bated breath each day to see what you’ll write next! Keep it up!

  6. A salmon escalator powered by green energy needs to be urgently developed and installed.

  7. Bernie

    Good grief this story shows an awful lack of understanding of the law of unintended consequences. Matt you have now told the damn bears where the salmon are and the polar bears where the sea lions are. But perhaps therein lies the solution to the problem – or perhaps not.

  8. Speed

    Replace the dam with a nuclear power plant. Or a windmill.

  9. Kevin

    Check out The Great Salmon Hoax by James L. Buchal ISBN: 0966195108

    This book has been out more than a decade but its good sense suggestions are ignored and we continue to mismanage the salmon population. No sensible thinking can penetrate an issue with agencies of the Federal government on both sides, environmentalists on both sides, indian tribes and state agencies involved.

  10. Ron C

    Imagination? Unacceptable. This is the UNITED STATES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT we’re talking about here.

  11. DAV

    The Endangered Species Act was actually designed to protect a species although often perceived the most vulnerable but is in fact the most resilient: the federal bureaucrat.

  12. dearieme

    A friend of mine once led a party of engineering undergraduates on a visit to a power station. At one point they were standing by the filters used to clean the cooling water drawn from the sea. One of the students asked the operator “What problems do you get with these filters?” “Seals” said the man. My friend interrupted “Of course, he doesn’t mean the marine mammals, he means the devices that allow a shaft to rotate without liquid leaking along it.” “No” said the operator “I mean the marine mammals”.

  13. Cass Sunstein is getting public defenders lined up for the Sea Lions, no doubt.

  14. Earle Williams

    Talk about a law ripe for appeal, or maybe even to be overturned by the SCOTUS. No, not the Endangered Species Act — I’m referring to the Law of Unintended Consequences. Life was so much easier before that law was passed.

  15. Wild salmon are one of the few listed endangered species that you can purchase at your grocery store.

    Sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammals Act, even though they are not an ESA listed species. In some West Coast marinas the sea lion poop is 15 feet deep under the water. Marinas need to be dredged, not for sand but for sea lion poop. It’s a nasty business. You can’t purchase sea lion steaks, however.

    Meanwhile $billions with a B have been spent to “save” the salmon, most of that paid for by hydropower ratepayers, although a fair percentage comes directly out of the Federal Treasury.

    And property owners across the West, whole communities even, have been beset by onerous water and property takings on behalf of salmon, which swim up rivers and streams to spawn. The fingerlings return to the ocean, but not before they run a guantlet of terns, sea gulls, carp, bass, and other, bigger fish. Even when the fingerlings are barged directly to the ocean, only about 3 in 1,000 return.

    The salmon is sacred, though, at least it is according to the high priest atheist scientists who collect a tithe from the $billions flushed away with the fingerlings.

    Recently the PDO has shifted, bringing cold water to the eastern Pacific. As a result, record salmon runs are happening. The Indians used to burn bonfires to coax the salmon home. We burn money. It’s the PDO, not the smoke, but record runs are reinforcing the superstitious beliefs. People are funny that way.

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