Followup on the story we published yesterday about sea lions found dead on West Seattle shores (also updated late last night on the Seal Sitters’ site): We just talked with Brian Gorman at the National Marine Fisheries Service. He says that preliminary necropsy results show that at least five dead sea lions found in the past week in this area had been shot. (Inset photo, courtesy of Will, is from an on-beach necropsy south of Alki Point yesterday.) One, Gorman says, was a federally protected Steller sea lion – a species not commonly seen in Puget Sound. (Seal Sitters wrote about that sea lion’s death [scroll down].) “This is unusual,” he says. “We’ve turned over the evidence to our enforcement folks … We’ll certainly be tracking this.” he says. Investigators have no idea yet where these animals were shot, by whom, and why (no specifics yet on the type of gun/s that were used, either). There’s a chance there are more; Gorman says they’ve received reports of “floating carcasses,” though they might have been multiple sightings of the ones that already have washed up.
Regarding whether these shootings would be treated as a crime, he explains, “There are instances where you could shoot a sea lion if it were threatening your life, and there are a few tribes that have permits to shoot sea lions [in fishing circumstances] … Certainly not Stellers.” NMFS usually gets one or two reports of sea-lion shootings each year, he says, but “it is certainly very unusual for us to get this many.” Quoting the Seal Sitters website: “If a marine mammal is being harassed or harmed, call NOAA Enforcement Hotline, 800-853-1964. If there is imminent danger, call 911.”