BONNEVILLE -- Sea lions eating up the salmon at the Bonneville Dam will now be caught on tape.
Last week, scientists with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission installed video-cameras to document just how much of the spring Chinook run the animals are eating.
The cameras sit just below the dam s second powerhouse and just above an area where sea lions often gather and feast on salmon trying to make it up the fish ladders.
Federal researchers estimate the sea lions take between 2 and 4 percent of the spring Chinook run. But the tribes believe the sea lions are eating a much higher percentage.
If sea lions are taking fish here they would also, logic would tell you, be taking salmon populations... preying on salmon throughout the entire lower system, said Sara Thompson, spokesperson for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Thompson says if the cameras at the dam give an accurate count of how many salmon are being killed the tribes will install more cameras down river.
Right now we are correlating the information that we re receiving with what is being observed at the dam, said Thompson.
The tribe s goal is to better understand the sea lions and ultimately come up with a way to better manage them.
It s just another tactic to try and scapegoat the sea lions, said Andrea Kozil with the Human Society of the United States.
Kozil argues it's not the sea lions creating the problem it's the over-fishing of the river and the introduction of non-native fish for recreation.
The non-native species eat over seven million smelt the baby salmon ... over seven million a year, said Kozil.
The animal rights group recently won a lawsuit to stop the killing of California sea lions at the dam.
But the tribes maintain the sea lions should be removed if they are indeed jeopardizing our endangered salmon. A problem they hope to prove on tape.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is looking to issue a new permit to resume the killing of sea lions. That could happen by the end of this month.