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Group aims to scare sea lions

A sea lion basks in the sun on the California coast. The Curry Sportfishing Association has garnered grants to keep sea lions from entering the Rogue River estuary north of Smith River. (Photo courtesy of California State University Los Angeles).
A sea lion basks in the sun on the California coast. The Curry Sportfishing Association has garnered grants to keep sea lions from entering the Rogue River estuary north of Smith River. (Photo courtesy of California State University Los Angeles).

By Valliant Corley

WesCom News Service

GOLD BEACH, Ore. – State and federal governments are providing some of the funds to help the Curry Sportfishing Association attempt to keep away from the mouth of the Rogue River this year.

"Many sea lions have learned that it is very easy to take a salmon off an angler's line," said Todd Confer, Oregon Depart-ment of Fish and Wildlife district fish biologist. "This resulted in a significant impact on the fishery that affected both local commercial fishers and sport anglers."

Curry Sportfishing Associat-ion will put up 350 feet of barrier on local mooring docks to discourage the sea lions.

The association, the primary sponsor of the project, will build the barrier on local mooring docks.

Last year, Curry Sportfishing Association members constructed a 60-foot barrier on a breakwater and 150 feet of barriers on boat docks. This year's project will add to the existing barriers to make it much more difficult for the sea lions to haul out and rest.

The sportfishing association is contributing $38,212 of the funds for the project. Another $20,000 is a grant from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program. Besides the R&E Program grant, ODFW is contributing $30,399 to the project including hazing and barrier equipment, consultation and hazing monitoring. The National Marine Fisheries Service is providing $4,500.

Sea lion runs on Rogue River fall Chinook salmon, along with the animals stealing fish from anglers, has been increasing in the estuary over the past five years.

The barriers, which consist of pipe barricades and motion-activated sprinklers, are part of a three-part effort that was implemented last year. It also includes putting up barriers on docks and breakwaters to make it more difficult for sea lions to loiter in the boat basin, to remove fish carcasses from fish cleaning stations, and hazing sea lions from the estuary.

Association President Mark Lottis said the organization raised $30,000 to hire a full-time hazer in 2006 who chased sea lions from the estuary using seal bombs and cracker shells, which produce noise to frighten the animals but causes them no physical harm.

The group plans to have a hazer on the water again this year during the July through mid-September fishing season.

"Last year's hazing program was excellent," Lottis said. "We couldn't have hoped for better results."

Officials said that in 2005, between 50 and 75 percent of salmon that were hooked by anglers in the area were taken from their lines by sea lions. The 2006 hazing program reduced that number to about 5 percent. The association expects to see similar results this year, with fewer sea lions lingering in the estuary and boat basin due to the additional barriers.

The Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program was created by the Oregon Legislature in 1989. It is funded by a surcharge on sport and commercial fishing licenses and commercial poundage fees. The program's seven-member citizen board reviews fish restoration and enhancement project proposals and makes funding recommendations to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

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