SEATTLE, WA – Federal officials are investigating after several dead California sea lions have washed up on Seattle beaches, including at least two that were shot to death. A sea lion washed up on a West Seattle beach on Wednesday, but the animal’s cause of death has not been determined.
Wednesday’s dead sea lion was the fifth found recently, according to KOMO News. Killing sea lions is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Violators can be fined more than $28,000 and spend up to one year in jail.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 700 sea lions were shot or stabbed between 1998 and 2017. Sea lions consume large amounts of fish, often competing with commercial fishermen. The animals are even known to steal fish from fishermen’s nets.
Sea lions consume lots of fish, which means they also compete with orcas for food. Puget Sound’s orca population is in serious trouble, largely because the whales can’t get enough salmon to eat. The amount of salmon in Puget Sound has dwindled because salmon have trouble making it up the Columbia and Snake rivers to spawn.
NOAA has set up a hot line to report information about the recent sea lion killings. Call (800) 853-1964 if you have information about the killings.