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Video captures boater running down sea lions on the Columbia River

Sea lions are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act—making it illegal to harass, hunt or kill any marine mammals.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland man captured a gut-wrenching video of a boat with fishing gear, weaving back and forth, appearing to try to intentionally hit dozens of sea lions swimming around Hayden Island off the Columbia River on Monday, April 3.

Sea lions are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act— making it illegal to harass, hunt or kill any marine mammals.

"Whoever was driving it, they went right through the pack of the first one and it was kind of [like he] was trying to hit every pack and I just looked around me and everybody was devastated," said Michael Brady, the Portland man who took the video.

Brady told KGW he has been fishing since he was young and once fished for a living. He said the driver of that boat had no logical reason to aim for and hit the sea lions the way they did.

"I see both sides of it. I understand the frustration. I understand this year is tough on salmon. Lower coast, I think, is even closed for some people,” Brady said. “But I think this was a sport fisherman who had a little chip on his shoulder and it was terrible to witness as a community here." 

While KGW was out getting video today in that same spot, we witnessed another boat targeting groups of sea lions bobbing in the water. They scramble away when it's right on top of them.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which oversees fishery management, a fisherman can scare off seals and sea lions from damaging gear or impacting them while actively fishing. They can do it by using horns, bells and whistles or circling the mammals — without physically harming them. 

The Oregon State Marine Board, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and NOAA are all aware of this video and are investigating, but told KGW they couldn't comment at this time.

On Wednesday, NOAA told KGW that its law enforcement division is asking anyone with information about the boat and/or incident to reach out to law enforcement by calling 800-853-1964 or visiting its website for reporting violations.

As for Brady, he would like to see the driver of the boat held accountable for trying to harm the sea lions.

"The competition with the sea lions is, I think, what the fisherman would view things like this as a threat,” Brady said. “They feel like their competition. And I'm just going to say, nature was here first. That's all." 

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