10:38 PM: As we reported last night, wildlife authorities are investigating five sea lion deaths discovered on West Seattle shores. Today, the two most-recently discovered California sea lion carcasses – both adult males – were towed to Don Armeni Boat Ramp, where an area was taped off so necropsies could be done. Participants included Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which reports on its website tonight that the procedures showed “evidence of bullet wounds and projectiles … one (sea lion) with extensive internal damage.”
The first one was towed in late morning from the beach west of Seacrest. Longtime local whale researcher Mark Sears provided the boat, more often used for orca research. This one was measured at nine feet long and estimated to weigh almost half a ton.
The other was towed in the afternoon from the 1500 block of Alki SW with a boat provided by West Seattle volunteer Rick Rasmussen. Those helping prep that sea lion for transport included “Diver Laura” James.
The Seal Sitters update continues, “The skulls [of both sea lions] were removed and will be radiographed early next week and should reveal more conclusive results.” The report also notes the full list of agencies and organizations that collaborated to make today’s procedures happen.
As a NOAA spokesperson had told us early today, the federal agency’s Office of Law Enforcement is investigating. If you have any information on the sea-lion shootings, you can reach them any time of the day or night at 800-853-1964.
SIDE NOTE: While all this unfolded, a harbor seal swam over and hauled out elsewhere on Don Armeni.
Seal Sitters told us they’d been watching that one come and go.
ADDED FRIDAY MORNING: NOAA has now published its official statement:
NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement is investigating the apparent shooting of several California sea lions in the area of West Seattle since October, and reiterates that sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
“We are concerned about a number of recent reports of marine mammal deaths caused by gunshots in the greater Seattle area. All marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and OLE investigates all reported unlawful takes of sea lions,” said Greg Busch, Assistant Director, NOAA Fisheries, Office of Law Enforcement, West Coast Division.
To report a marine mammal violation, call 1-800-853-1964. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement provides live operator coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal, call: 1-866-767-6114.
In recent years, there have been reports of sea lion shootings n fall and winter in Puget Sound, said Kristin Wilkinson, NOAA Fisheries Stranding Coordinator for the Northwest. California sea lions in and around Puget Sound now are almost all males that have come north from the Channel Islands off Southern California in search of more plentiful food.
The MMPA prohibits the harassment, hunting, capturing, or killing of marine mammals, or any attempt to do so. However, the law does contain exceptions authorizing certain people under certain circumstances to use non-lethal methods to deter marine mammals from damaging private property, including fishing gear and catch, so long as it does not result in the death or serious injury of an animal.
For further details and frequently asked questions on deterrence methods, visit: