Port of Astoria Commissioner Bill Hunsinger marshaled his fellow commercial fishermen Tuesday to talk about what the agency can do to stop sea lions from ruining fishing on the Columbia River.

Hunsinger added the Sea Lion Committee to he Port Commission agenda for the meeting Tuesday, which was packed to the gills with commercial and guide fishermen who largely feel the river’s endangered salmon runs, and by extension their livelihoods, are threatened by pinnipeds. In the front row was a small contingent from the Sea Lion Defense Brigade, a group formed several years ago to monitor hazing and other violence against sea lions in Astoria and at the Bonneville Dam, where they feed at the fish ladders.

Over the last few years, the Port has become a focal point for the increasing numbers of mostly California sea lion males migrating into the Columbia to feed on fish runs, while their traditional food network along the California coastline collapses under warm El Niño conditions. Encapsulating the migration into the Columbia River was a single-day count in March by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife of more than 2,300 sea lions lounging in the Port’s East End Mooring Basin.

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