Sea lions may appear to be cute or cuddly creatures when you see them in an aquarium at the zoo, but the Port of Astoria in Oregon doesn’t see it that way recently. They have been invaded by a sea lion swarm that has made its travel point the area where boaters park their vessels. These sea lions won’t even let the owners get near their boats.
Officials in the Port of Astoria have estimated the swarm to number more than 2,300, which is more than twice the number of sea lions that showed up there last year. The massive sea lion swarm has even caused one public beach to be closed because the sea lions are charging and chasing people who travel there.
Strategy: using fake orcas
Officials have determined that the only thing to do is try to scare away the sea lion swarm, as they don’t want to hurt the animals. One method they are about to try is the use of a fake, life-size killer whale replica. Terry Buzzard, the owner of Island Marine Cruises in Bellingham, Washington, is letting the Port of Astoria authorities use his life-size replica of an orca to see if it works to scare away the sea lions. Island Marine Cruises uses the 36-foot fiberglass whale replica in its parades and commercials. The killer whale is a predator that eats sea lions and seals, so hopefully it will help fool the sea lions.
Other implemented strategies
The city has tried beach balls, as sea lions are said to be afraid of the brightly colored balls. The authorities have strung up dozens of multicolored beach balls along the docks in the hopes that it will cause the sea lions to travel elsewhere. The Port has also attempted other tactics to get rid of the sea lion swarm. Some of these included stringing colored survey tape along the docks, as well as putting up chicken wire and even electrified mats with a mild charge on them. The sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (started in 1972), so they can’t be harmed.
Possible reasons for the Sea Lion Occupation
Biologists hypothesize that the sea lions swarmed to Oregon due to a couple of issues: the lack of an adequate food supply at sea, warming ocean waters, among others. Now that the sea lion population has increased to the point of being a hazard, the local authorities are hoping that the above methods will work to rid their town of the sea lion swarm.