Nick Chill/Flickr Oregon officials will set off fireworks near California sea lions in an attempt to prevent the animals from scarfing down all the fish.
For the next 13 weeks, a migrant population of California sea lions will be the guests of honor at a daily fireworks display, bought and paid for by Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Five days a week, from dawn until dusk, a small team of fish and wildlife employees will “haze” the visiting sea lions with loud fireworks in an attempt to keep them from eating salmon and steelhead at Willamette River fish ladders.
Salmon and steelhead are federally listed endangered species.
“Our purpose is not to harm the sea lions or move them off the river entirely,” Tom Murtagh, the Oregon fish biologist in charge of the project, said in a statement. “Our intent is to move these animals away from (endangered) fish that are congregating at the fish ladders waiting to swim upstream.”
California wildlife biologist Joe Cordaro seemed surprised by the tactic.
“Those are pretty smart creatures,” said Cordaro, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “I’d be surprised if they didn’t tune it out after the first few days.”
This will be the second annual sea-lion-fire-works-hazing event on the Willamette.
According to Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife website, the hazing operation is being conducted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and is consistent with its policies.
Cordaro said the animals are unlikely to be harmed by the fireworks.