Sea Lions Feast When Salmon Mill Around & Below Fish Ladders
The Seattle Times Editorial Board had it right with their May 25, 2018 piece entitled, “Congress must act – again – to save salmon from hungry sea lions,” so that these returning mature salmon are not prevented from completing the circle of life’s last stage. However, to address the root cause of the problem Congress must enable faster fish passage deployment and more ways for fish to avoid predation caused by delayed passage below ladders.
Time is of the essence and dithering by federal officials will set back recovery by generations while enabling one protected species to devour another, to the detriment of our vital salmon and steelhead runs. Congress should look inward at the government agencies they regulate and enable them to deploy smarter passage solutions quickly, without risk of violating the Endangered Species Act. With the existing options for the regulators, salmon and steelhead remain easy prey.
Washington and Oregon’s members of Congress should address the root cause of the sea lion problem directly, and change the sea lion game by enabling new upstream fish passage options, especially where there are endangered species. Failure to do so assures the problem will repeat and meaningful recovery remain illusory. The policies debated too often do not align with enabling innovative solutions for real and sustained salmon and steelhead recovery.
The Whooshh Dam Smart Fish PassageTM solutions can be deployed today, with multiple entry points, enabling faster passage options for the fish and decreasing passage delay, all at significantly lower cost to the operators than traditional fish ladders. If the fish aren't there, the sea lion's will go away. More adult fish safely passing upstream over dams without injury and stress, leads directly to increased spawning success and ultimately healthier fisheries. Every day that we wait to implement smart solutions which marry fish biology and innovative technology, we like the sea lion are “taking” the lives of salmon and steelhead, putting at risk critical fish runs, while wasting taxpayer dollars, clean energy, and fresh water reserves.
Fewer casualties while migrating upstream can result in exponentially more offspring coming back down and for each generation more adults returning to spawn once again. This is necessary for salmon recovery, the orca, the environment, the dam operator - and probably the fate of the sea lions as well.
Whether it is sea lions or bureaucracy, our citizens, salmon and steelhead do not benefit by milling around while failing to address the root cause of the matter. Waiting for legal action and risking extinction does not make for sound long term policy. In the Northwest and throughout the U.S., we have repeatedly demonstrated in other industries that technological innovation when applied to the root cause of a biological or environmental issue, can change the outcome. Dither no more, focus on the root cause, and give transformational innovation a chance without the stranglehold of well-intentioned but now outdated regulatory constraints and the faulty ideas of the last century .
-Vincent Bryan III