Project aims to protect chinook salmon, steelhead

by: OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE - A California sea lion is seen with a fish caught just below Willamette Falls in the spring of 2011.The hazing of sea lions has started once again.

In an attempt to reduce predation on federally listed chinook salmon and steelhead, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife started hazing California sea lions below the fish ladders at Willamette Falls on Monday.

In the third year of the pilot program to see whether nonlethal sea lion hazing is effective in moving the animals away from Willamette Falls and reduce fish mortality, the program will take place seven days a week during daylight hours through April 30.

The hazing will be restricted to the Willamette River from Willamette Falls to the Interstate 205 bridge about a mile downstream. No hazing will occur downstream of the I-205 bridge.

The ODFW hazing crew will deploy specially designed fireworks from the Willamette Falls fish ladder and from a boat to move California sea lions away from where salmon and steelhead congregate before entering fish ladders.

“Our purpose is to try to protect the listed salmon and steelhead from sea lion predation,” said Tom Murtagh, ODFW fish biologist in charge of the project. “Through a variety of nonlethal hazing methods, we hope to scare the sea lions away from the fish ladders downstream.”

The Oregon Legislature mandated the hazing operation in 2011 through the passage of House Bill 3255. This work is being conducted according to provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act with authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service. Predation of listed salmon and steelhead by California sea lions below Willamette Falls has been identified as a concern in the Draft Upper Willamette River Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan.

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