The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife recently began a three-month “hazing” project directed at sea lions and scaring them away from the Willamette Falls area. This hazing is meant to give a favorite prey of the seals, winter steelhead and spring chinook, a better chance at survival. This is the third year of the program, but last year it was suspended because of a lack of funding. Crews will use two methods:
1. Cracker shells that come out of a shotgun and blow up in mid-air.
2. “Seal bombs” that are waterproof pyrotechnics that explode a foot or two underwater.
The crews try to keep the booming to a minimum, but it disturbs nearby residents and pets. In the article, the ODFW spokesman says they don’t even know if the hazing is helping. I would think that being in the third year they would know something about the effectiveness of the method, even if they only do it for three months out of the year.
I’m wondering what response the fish have from the blasts. The fireworks may be frightening the sea lions, but probably also the fish. The underwater blasts are also, most likely, adding harmful chemicals to the water. I would think there would be some sort of structure or net that could be put around the ‘hotspot’ ladders the crews are trying to protect. I know there are fish nets with sea turtle escape hatches, so I feel like a selective net could be designed to let fish through but not sea lions. The water may be too deep or have too strong of a current that it might not be feasible though. I realize that putting up bars or selective structures would be expensive, but at the same time I feel like the ODFW is wasting a lot of money on this shell-shock technique when they don’t even know if it helps.
ALSO! Here is a super fun Harlem Shake video done by SeaWorld San Antonio that features sea lions! My personal favorite is the walrus though!!! Made me laugh so hard. Enjoy!