Sea Lions, the Wild Horses of the Oceans


©CAES2018 Val Cecama-Hogsett

When speaking with someone about a recent news story in Oregon concerning the management of sea lions and salmon, I began to make a correlation to this problem and the wild horses and their predators that we fight to protect.

A recent story about the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife getting the green light to kill sea lions for eating salmon brought outrage to many of our followers on social media, and several in Oregon who were torn about the need to protect the salmon, versus killing a few seal lions which a taking over an area where they were not normally residents.


The sea lions discovered that manmade fish ladders are a great place to sit at the bottom of and feed. The ladders were built to deal with the problem dams created for salmon returning to spawning grounds. The fish could not climb the dam walls, so ladders were created to allow passage to the fish. Thus creating a smorgasbord for the sea lions.


In trying to explain the cycle I try to educate people about, which is man interferes, and creates an unexpected consequence, therefore must interfere again, and round and round we go.


When I compare this issue to the issues we deal with in the management of wild horses it is the same manmade problem, with scapegoating animals natural behaviors or responses to manmade issues, and always in favor of making someone a profit.

In this issue with salmon and sea lions, it is the fisherman who complains about the fish population decline, thus decrease in his profit. In the issue of wild horses, it is the rancher who complains, there is less forage so he can put fewer cows or sheep on the land, thus decrease in his profit.


Wild horses also get blamed for fish population declines. The claim is that they ruin stream banks, allowing erosion and widening of streams and rivers, which makes more shallow water and thus warmer water…etc etc. Then the question becomes ‘how was this not an issue in the past….”A question that has to be answered because otherwise, MAN might be to blame.

If you have ever watched the video on the results of wolves being reintroduced to Yellowstone you know that overpopulation of any grazing animals will cause these things to happen, it is a cascade of effects caused by a loss of predators, then the trophic cascade of what happens, things return to a ‘normal’ state when the predators species are reintroduced.

In the oceans we have a very serious decline in whale and shark species, therefore we have fewer predators for sea lions. In wild horses, we kill predators, wolves, mountain lions, and bears, and thus fewer predators of wild horses.

Then we create more problems by building fish ladders, or dinner plates for sea lions, creating an unnatural environment. We put out feeding stations for big game that are hunted and use water for commercial livestock who are being raised in an unnatural environment.

Fisherman kills predators of sea lions, ranchers kill predators of wild horses. Fisherman sees more sea lions, but now they are eating their fish (profits). Ranchers see more horses, but now they are drinking scarce water and eating scarce forage, causing smaller numbers of livestock permitted on the land thus affecting their profits.


So what is the response…remove sea lions and kill them. Remove wild horses and (if the law permitted) kill them.

Is this management? I do not believe so. I believe this is responding to each new crisis as it arises or is discovered. It is not science-based, nor is it forward planning.

The fact is humans caused the problem for the sea lions and do we honestly have the right to then impose a death sentence?

For horses…are they even overpopulated?

Is it truly commercial livestock that is overpopulated on our western public lands and horses being blamed?

Would the lands recover like they did in Yellowstone if we stop killing apex predators?

Would the underground water, and thus groundwater levels recover if we stop the overuse by the commercial livestock, and livestock crop productions on these arid lands?

When do humans stand up and take accountability for their actions?  We believe that the answer is:

When profit is no longer the only priority that matters.


Referenced articles:

When will we realize that the beauty and peace humans receive from nature are more valuable than the commercial profits of corporations?


Other references and good reads:


Asuncion Island Sea lions & baby Cormorants from whale magic tours on Vimeo.


  • “Following the reintroduction of previously extirpated gray wolves Canis lupus into Yellowstone National Park, a spatially patchy recovery of woody browse species (e.g., aspen Populus tremuloides, willow Salix spp., cottonwood Populus spp.) has begun, indicating that large predator recovery may represent an important restoration strategy for ecosystems degraded by wild ungulates.”Large predators and trophic cascades in terrestrial ecosystems of the western United States Author links open overlay panel Robert L.BeschtaWilliam J.Ripple College of Forestry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, United States Received 8 January 2009, Revised 21 May 2009, Accepted 4 June 2009, Available online 4 August 2009.


2 thoughts on “Sea Lions, the Wild Horses of the Oceans

  1. Of course humans are responsible – remember? We are the “dominant” species! Sure does make you wonder how all the other species managed before we took over, doesnt it? Building dams – killing predators – then killing prey species because there were no predators to keep them in check and over & over again. All so the human race can live well and prosper!!! Makes you proud, doesnt it?

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