One sea lion dead, others in distress following ODFW branding





ASTORIA, Ore. March 26, 2013 — In the aftermath of the traumatic capture and cruel branding of 38 sea lions by Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) at the Port of Astoria on Sunday, one sea lion has died and at least one animal remains in visible pain on the docks, reports Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Dam Guardians, who are on the ground along the Columbia River to document the horrors befalling these federally protected animals for the crime of eating salmon.

Up close view of the brands Astoria

Up close view of the brands
Astoria – 2012
Photo: Erwin Vermeulen / Sea Shepherd

***UPDATE: California sea lion U349 in Astoria***

According to the ODFW, they’ve received an update on California sea lion #349 that was reported drowned in Astoria in a March 26 news release from Sea Shepherd.


These photos of California sea lion #U349 were taken today, March 27, at about 1:30 p.m. According to biologists on site, the animal appeared alert and healthy with no sign of injury or distress.



Starting at 9:50 this morning, Dam Guardians at the Port of Astoria noticed two sea lions in extreme distress following the brutal and painful branding by an ODFW worker on Sunday, March 24. One animal was observed on the pier, twitching and in excruciating pain. A second was on the river and completely incapacitated. The disabled animal was literally unable to keep his head above water and a sea lion friend was helping him stay afloat, until he slipped under and did not resurface. Sea lion #349 is now gone. The Dam Guardians on the ground named him “Justice” and observed a moment of silence for him.

“Justice was tortured and died courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and all of our taxpayer dollars,” said Ashley Lenton, on site Dam Guardian Campaign Leader. “The cavalier attitude expressed in news reports yesterday by Oregon Fish & Wildlife officials that branding is of no consequence is flat-out wrong,” she added. “These are wild animals. Not only does the trauma of being captured take its toll, the pain, bleeding and potential infection from hot irons being burned into their flesh IS painful, IS of consequence, and IS a big deal no matter what they tell you,” she added. “A dead sea lion is evidence enough.”

Sea lions are part of the Columbia River landscape and have been since before the Lewis & Clark expeditions. This river is as much their home as it is ours. The ODFW needs to stop blaming ‘federally protected’ sea lions for their own mismanagement of salmon populations. They have clearly been made into scapegoats.

The Dam Guardians campaign kicked off March 15th and is Sea Shepherd’s second sea lion defense campaign along the Columbia River. Up to 368 California sea lions face execution by Oregon and Washington state workers for the crime of eating endangered salmon on the Columbia River near the Bonneville Dam. The states are authorized to kill up to 92 of the federally protected pinnipeds annually through June 2016. The sea lions will be branded with hot irons, hazed with rubber bullets and explosives, and killed by lethal injection or shotgun for eating less than 4% of the salmon at the dam; last year they only took 1.6%. All of this mayhem is conducted on the taxpayers’ dime while commercial, sport, and tribal fisheries are allowed to take up to 17% of the same endangered salmon and the dam itself claims approximately 17% of adult salmon.

“The question is why are humans so greedy that we are not willing to share even the smallest percentage of salmon with the sea lions?” Lenton said.

The Dam Guardians will be on the ground at the Bonneville Dam and the Port of Astoria documenting this horrific scene and bringing it to the world through May 31, 2013. Sea Shepherd is asking concerned citizens to register their complaints with the offices of the Governors of Wash. and Ore. Donate to the effort or consider becoming a Dam Guardian. For more information, log onto “What You Can Do” at


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Background – Sunday’s Capture and Branding:

The large number of sea lions captured Sunday was primarily due to the trap being one of the few places for the sea lions to haul out in the area. Due to the sheer numbers of animals crammed into the trap and the additional weight of one of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) workers standing on the side of the trap, the trap began to sink and several animals were caught in a panic when the cage was mostly submerged for too long and they almost drowned.

After this, the animals were pushed through a tunnel and into a squeeze cage one-by-one to be marked by branding. During the extremely painful branding process, which utilizes liquid nitrogen and a hot iron, the backs of several of the sea lions actually caught fire as the iron sizzled into their flesh and yellowish-white plumes of smoke rose from their bodies. The branded animals, including babies, could be heard screaming in pain. The Dam Guardians witnessed several sea lions go into shock and start to convulse following the branding process, which began at 7 am and finally ended at approximately 1:30 pm PST, after the marine mammals endured more than six hours of this torture. As if the branding was not traumatic enough, they were then tagged with white markers.


• Sea lions consume between 0.4% and 4.2% of the 80,000 to 300,000 salmon that spawn in the Columbia River each year.

• The dams along the Columbia River take up to 60% of juvenile salmon and up to 17% of adult salmon.

• Human fishing activity takes approximately 17% of the adult salmon from the river.

• Non-native, introduced sport-fishing species consume up to 3 million young salmon a year.

• By-catch of Columbia River salmon in open ocean fisheries also contributes to the loss of Columbia River salmon.


About Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Founded by Captain Paul Watson, a world renowned, respected leader in environmental issues and co-founder of Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (S.S.C.S.) U.S. is a non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd U.S. uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately balanced oceanic ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations. Visit for more information.

Posted in: Conservation, Events
Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson

About the Author:

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson is the founder and Editor of Beach Carolina Magazine. Living along the coast of North Carolina, Mike has a passion for the beach and loves to bring news and events of the Carolinas to others around the world.

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