I so happy to say I was able to return to Melbourne Australia! I still had my return ticket that I bought last summer, so traveling out was a lot less expensive. I returned to visit friends, help set up the Sea Shepherd Australia’s office new location, and of course greet my fellow crew members when they docked!
I finished finals for Winter quarter, and I was on a plane 48 hours later! I had an 8 hour lay over in LA and then a 15 hour flight to Melbourne. I had this horrible passenger sitting next to me on the plane. Maybe this is just me, but I feel like there is a flying etiquette that some people just are blind to! For example… it is rude to move around all your friends sitting next to you and disrupt other people who have already settled into their flight. It is also rude for that same person to take up the empty chairs next to you and go to sleep over BOTH of them, and then proceed to put their feet on a part of your lap. Please don’t do that. It will piss off the person next to you. (In the case of this story a 19 year old environmentalist that really just wanted to travel in peace!)
When I arrived, I got right to work on painting these new showers, that were put in on the docks, for the ship crew. I also spent the evening with my dear friend Sarah and her lovely family! I was so tired by the end of the day, when I went to sit on the couch, I passed out. oooppps!
The fleet’s arrival was amazing! I am so proud of my crew and all that they accomplished this season! It hurt that I wasn’t returning with them, but it was nice to see the campaign come to a close and get that little bit of closure.
I spent the next few days working as a deckhand on the Steve!
I came home this last Tuesday night, and drove to the Bonneville Dam in WA/OR two days later. I joined the crew, here on the ground, for the Dam Guardian campaign.
The Dam staff is hazing, branding, and killing sea lions on the Bonneville Dam in WA/OR and in Astoria OR. The reason? According to some of the fishermen in Astoria Sea Lions are an invasive species that haven’t been present in the Columbia River for thousands of years.
We can only date the sea lions back as far as Lewis and Clark, who noted the presence of seals and marine mammals feeding on fish as far up as the Columbia River (which is the current site of the Bonneville Dam). The hydroelectric dams that block passages and create habitat loss are killing more Salmon than the sea lions ever have. The Columbia River never had a seal or salmon population decline until human interests got involved in the matter.
The argument the fisheries have is that the Sea lions are taking away salmon that could be going to consumers. Failing to admit that their Dam is the actual problem.
Sea Lions are eating between 1% and 4% of the spring salmon run. The government has permits to kill up to 17% of these same spawning salmon. Along with that, the government has concluded that 7% to 16% of the adult fish are killed by the dams that they must navigate. The native people of North Bonneville are allowed to take as much salmon as they wish.
The highest number of sea lions seen at the Bonneville Dam varied from 90 in 2004 and 54 in 2011. I can say personally, I’ve only seen 6 sea lions here at the Bonneville Dam, but I know there are at least 50+ in Astoria. Compared to the Dam’s destruction and the human consumption of the fish, we can safely say that 90 sea lions are deserving of their meals and are not the problem. Salmon and sea lions lived sustainably together for thousands of years… human fishing is the new addition to the equation here.
The hazing process is terrible! It’s loud! I cannot imagine how loud it is under the water, when it echos through the whole Dam complex on land. The sea lions swim away in complete terror, but do return to continue hunting. Hunger beats fear. Tax payer dollars are going into this. We are paying for this!
A boat maneuvers around the dam, like a chicken with no head, and shoots at the sea lions up close. The hazer stands on the shore with the “spotters” and shoots into the water from the Dam. The spotters have young college interns working with them, learning how to terrorize and torture.
And then there are the traps… When the dam raises the amount of water flowing out, the tide rises. The water covers all the safe spots that sea lions can lay on and they are forced to take rests in the traps, because it is the only solid ground available to them (that isn’t inhabited by fishermen).
I talked with three fishermen today, at the Dam. One said he wanted to see the sea lions stay because they were his “underwater eyes”, where they hunt he knows to hunt there too. The other two fishermen said: “too much money is going into this. It isn’t a problem. You eat what you catch and they should be able to eat as well”. They agreed that we have the options to eat other things, but this is all the sea lions have to survive.
We have to educate people, get people to think about where their fish is coming from, have people reach out to the government in protest, and honestly just be a pain in their butts!!!
I am traveling to Astoria tomorrow, where all of the branding has been happening these last few weeks. Hopefully it will be a peaceful day!