Marine mammal rescue is a problem

March 24, 2015

seal lions manyOPINION By STEVEN L. REBUCK

It should be apparent that the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA) is now causing significant harm to some species of marine mammals. The MMPA proposed to allow marine mammal populations to increase to their “maximum sustainable population” (MSP) while giving consideration to the overall health of the marine environment. Instead, MSP been interpreted to mean, “maximum population”, or, cram as many marine mammals as possible into limited habitat. This is the situation we now find ourselves.

Marine mammal rescue centers are reporting increased stranding of sick seals and sea lions statewide. Many of these are young, which appear to be starving. These centers take in sick animals, feed them and provide medicine. But, are they really helping individuals or population?

If left on the beach, these sick and dying might be seen. Citizens might draw the conclusion something is wrong. And, they would be right. By cleansing the beaches of sick animals, the evidence is removed from view.

In a 1991 report by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) “Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release of Marine Mammals; an Analysis of Current Views and Practices” it was reported:

“These are species (Elephant seals, harbor seals, and sea lions) that have large, stable and expanding populations that do not benefit from rehabilitation programs but for which the majority of effort and funding is expanded.”

These rescue operations have become big business, at least for those on the payroll. Most of these organizations could not function without all those nice folks who volunteer time and money to the effort. Releasing imprinted and/or genetically inferior animals creates more problems.

On land, we don’t allow animal populations to explode, from dogs and cats to deer and pigs. So why is the ocean different?

Clearly, these stranded animals are not successfully foraging for food.
Seals and sea lions are not the only marine mammals affected by food depletion. Sea otters in California are impacted to by their own depletion of their food items.

It takes considerable food for these animals to survive. Dr. Doyle Hannon, (California Department of Fish and Game, retired) in his Aug. 19, 2003 testimony before the House Resources Committee reported the average sea lion consumes 20 pounds of fish per day. NMFS estimates the population of California Sea Lions at 296,750 (other estimates range as high as 350,000). At 20 lbs. per day, this 5,935,000 lbs. per day or 2,166,275,000 lbs. per year!

In addition, these animals excrete their waste back into the near-shore environment. Some enclosed areas are now showing signs of hypoxia or a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water column.

To conclude: The MMPA allows marine mammals to die from starvation and disease. Seals and sea lions destroy public property. Fisheries and coastal economies are devastated. Other animal resources like salmon and abalone are depleted. This does not make economic sense nor is it humane.

Steve Rebuck of San Luis Obispo is a fisheries consultant who has appeared before the U.S. Congress four times (1984, 1985, 2001, 2003) on the sea otter in California, MMPA and Endangered Species Act.

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What a crock! We all know they are dying because of ingesting lead from hunters bullets that is washed into the ocean.

That was either sarcasm or a troll I hope. Unfortunately, there are some people so out of touch with reality that I can’t be sure.

Ahhhhh…. C’mon people.

We all know that it “takes a village”.

Just ask Hillary.

Thank-you so much for such an informative article. I’ve been trying to make my case about the sea lion problem and get constantly attacked by “environmentally conscious” people who are completely uninformed. I have my sailboat docked in Morro Bay and was charged by a 700 lb bull while sitting in my cockpit. He came flying out of the water, slid across the dock barking and charging at eye level.. I dove into the cabin and my yellow lab lunged out at him, startling him enough that he retreated. Hungry sea lions tend to be more aggressive, I would think. He was trying to claim his territory and we have had to take measures to deter him and keep a constant eye out. Bureaucracy at its finest.

The bay and ocean is THEIR home.Leave them the f alone!

I think I get your post. As in:

Let nature take its course?

If so, I agree 100%

Yeah, it’s the dang marine mammals eating all our fish! Definitely not those huge factory fishing ships. I’m constantly amazed at how some people blame creatures that have survived in harmony with nature for millions of years yet ignore humans “rape and pillage” attitude toward the ocean.

Why not both?

The “harmony with nature” to which you refer involved mass starvation and disease when populations got too big. That is what is occurring now and that is what Mr. Rebuck says should be allowed to happen. This is the REALITY of nature, not some Disneyfied interpretation.

What an asinine statement. It has been decades since there have been any “factory” ships off the California coast and those were mostly Russian and Japanese, and then only outside of the (then) 12 mile limit. There has NEVER been American factory ships off our coast. The predators that kept the sea lion population in check by preyed extensively on sea lion rookeries have long ago been exterminated i.e. wolves, lions, the California grizzly bear, etc. leading to the massive population explosion that we see today. Mr Rebuck correctly laid out the amount of biomass that it takes to sustain such an out of control population (although I believe the official estimates of the total sea lion population is about 25% below the true figure).

I personally would like to see a moratorium on the killing of rats and mice in our cities and farms. They were here first and we are encroaching on their natural habitat. Maybe we could set up centers to take care of sick rats and mice, after all it is our factory farms that have put these poor misunderstood creatures under so much stress that they can barely sustain their population numbers.

Sea lions are not pets. They are large predators that are in direct competition with our own interests. To allow their numbers to swell so far beyond prehistoric population numbers is not only foolhardy but in the end it will have grave consequences for the health of the oceans and the sea lions themselves.

The Sea Lion food shortage in California is now impacting the Oregon Coast. Yaquina bay (Newport Oregon) is being over run with hundreds of Sea Lions. Harbor workers are attempting to keep them off the fishing fleet docks with paintball guns to little effect. Sea Lions were removed from the endangered species list in 2012.

Sea Lions are edible.

Another government program with good intentions that yields significant detrimental unintended consequences.

What a surprise.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act should be done away with. It is the reason that many fisheries are being depleted. This was all predicted before the act became law. It’s called natural selection.

Eliminated, no. There were abuses that needed to be corrected too. Cut way back, yes.

they need to be managed

But like so many Government policies, science takes a back seat to emotions and heart strings.

I assume you are referring to the “climate change deniers” in congress here? Oh, sorry, they do it because it takes a back seat to partisanship and purse strings.”