Wednesday, June 15, 2011

HR 946 - Kill the Bill NOT the Sea Lions!

On June 14, 2011, the United States House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs held a legislative hearing on H.R. 946, the “Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act,” a bipartisan bill introduced by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA) to protect endangered Columbia River salmon from predation by California sea lions.

If enacted into law, H.R. 946 would ammend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to allow the Secretary of Commerce to grant permits for the "lethal taking of California Sea Lions". Permits would be issued for the taking of up to 10 sea lions. The Secretary would be allowed to issue multiple permits to eligible entities. Only one permit would be authorized for use in a 14-day period, but permits would be in effect for one year. The states of Washington and Oregon would be allowed to designate the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to administer permit authority.

For the full text of the H.R. 946, please follow this link:

During the Hearing on June 14, Sharon Young, Marine Issues Field Director for the Humane Society of the United States offered the following testimony AGAINST H.R. 946:

PLEASE CALL OR WRITE YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS AND URGE THEM TO NOT SUPPORT H.R. 946. Ask him or her to NOT become a co-sponsor of this legislation and to NOT vote in favor of H.R. 946. The Endangered Salmon Predation Act is a death sentence for California Sea Lions. There are other ways to protect endangered salmon. Fishermen take many, many more salmon than sea lions, yet they are encouraged to fish the Columbia River. Killing California Sea Lions is simply BAD POLICY. Similiar bills were introduced in the 109th and 110th Congresses. These bills died in committee. Please help insure the same fate for H.R. 946. KILL THE BILL, NOT THE SEA LIONS!

To locate your Member of Congress, please follow this link:

The bill is presently co-sponsored by Rep. Norman Dicks (WA), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR), Rep. Michael K. Simpson (ID), and Rep. Greg Walden (OR).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sea Glass Summer

August 2005 - At the start of the summer, I bought each of my young sons a wooden curio box with many small compartments. My plan was for them to build a collection of various items representing sea life. As we stumbled on interesting things on the beach, we could read about them in our books or look them up on the Internet. At the end of the summer, each boy would have a very cool, tangible memento.

Our daily ritual of walking the beach in search of THE special item to place in each curio box soon began. The boxes quickly filled with treasures washed up on shore: tiny Maryland blue crab carcasses, oyster shells, clam shells, mussels, rocks, driftwood, and beautiful bits of colored sea glass etched by sand, water and time. I can’t recall precisely when our focus shifted almost exclusively to hunting sea glass. As the weeks progressed, we all honed in on the prized jewels. On a good day, each boy might fill his pockets with 10 or more shards. We found white, green and brown bits to be plentiful. Far more elusive were the aquas, lilacs, citrine and cobalt blue. At first, any pieces I found would go to the boys, but then after a while, I “caught the bug”. Much to their dismay, I started my own collection. To avert the increasing number of “I saw it first” conflicts we also evolved a set of rules. Anyone that saw a piece of sea glass needed to call out, “sea glass,” pick it up and move to the back of our short line of three. We would all admire the new acquisition and offer appropriate kudos to its grinning finder. Discovering a piece with unusual color or markings led to an animated discussion of its origins. Was it a soda bottle? Wine bottle? Beer bottle? Drinking glass? Where did it come from? How old was it?

As our collections grew, so did our desire to learn more about the mysterious tinted bits. I purchased a newly published book, Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature’s Vanishing Gems by Richard LaMotte. With the acquisition of the book came a whole new level of excitement about our growing treasures. We confirmed our suspicion that the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are rich with the glass because of the many historically active shipping ports that dot the Maryland and Virginia shorelines. We also learned a color classification system for sea glass and delighted in the knowledge that we are in possession of a few genuinely rare pieces. We have now set our sights on the extremely rare oranges, reds and yellows.

Oftentimes, I happily felt like Mother Duck with her two ducklings in tow behind her. One time when we were on a “sea glass walk” with some visiting cousins, the children spotted a horseshoe crab swimming just offshore. We watched in awe as the gentle creature glided along the shallows. With the arrival of August came the dreaded stinging sea nettles. Now our walks had a twofold mission: collecting glass and tracking the increasing number of jellyfish. Each discovery brought a new learning opportunity. On the Internet we learned that horseshoe crabs have a copper based blood that is used by the medical profession to test the purity of medicines. Likewise, the boys found that jellyfish have no head, brain, heart, eyes or ears.

Depending on the tide, our walks could be from one to two miles in length. We walked on sweltering August afternoons and in the cool mist of summer rain. After a storm, we literally raced to the beach to see what treasures the crashing surf had left behind. At times we searched in focused silence. Other times we laughed and joked. The moments I most cherish though are when we talked. We talked about everything in the world…our time at the beach, family, friends, sea life, preventing beach erosion, the upcoming school year, the boys’ hobbies, and plans and dreams for the future.

I originally penned these words in 2005. The young boys who happily searched the beach with me each day of that blissful summer are now busy young men. Their afternoons are now filled with music practice, Boy Scouts, Debate, Robotics and other activities. I glance up at the wooden sign above the window in our kitchen. It reads, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” How true. Memories of that precious time with my young sons fill my head and my heart. More so than the actual thrill of collecting sea glass, I cherish our simple treks up and down the beach. My fondest wish is that they feel the same way. Whenever I stoop to pick up a piece of sea glass, I think warmly of that first sea glass summer. I hope they do too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

International Beach Clean-Up Day - A Heartfelt Thank YOU!

A young volunteer picks up a plastic bottle on a beach in Virginia

On May 28, 2011, people all over this little planet we call Earth participated in the 1st “International Beach Clean-Up Day” sponsored by the facebook page, “Take Only Pictures Leave Only Footprints”.

Participants posted photos of their efforts on the event wall at

The images of the garbage are staggering. Shoes, plastic bottles, utensils, beach toys, lids, cigarette butts by the thousands, cans, balloons, rope and of course, plastic bags litter beaches all around the world. Aside from my own personal disgust with those who use our beaches as trash cans, the reality is that this trash poses a lethal threat to wildlife in and near the sea. In my own community we look forward to the annual return of the osprey or sea hawk every spring. Did you know that ospreys mate for life and return to the same nesting area year after year? They build their nests with sticks and twigs...and also trash found near the water’s edge. It is not unusual to see rope, brightly colored ribbon attached to bits of broken balloons, plastic bags, and fishing line dangling from an osprey nest. All too often, the chicks become entangled in this mess and die.

Likewise, when this garbage ends up in the sea, it kills the animals who are unfortunate enough to consume it. How many of us have seen the gut wrenching video of the Bryde’s whale dying from plastic ingestion? This beautiful, sentient being died because of plastic shopping bags. Tragedies such as this have to end! Everyday heroes such as those who came together for International Beach Clean-Up Day are the ones who are going to see to it that it does end.

Thomas Alva Edison once said, “Success is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.” How true! The easy part is to have an idea. The real work comes in bringing the idea to fruition. Thanks to people around the world, International Beach Clean-Up Day was a success. In particular, I would like to recognize the work of the following folks who posted images of their hard work to the event wall on facebook:

Tim Bain - Porthmeor beach, St Ives, Cornwall
Micha Konig - Germany
Yedda Hsu - Iriomote Island, Japan
Tia Butt - Brighton Beach, UK
John Legg & a crew of 8 who picked up 65 bags of trash at Dinas Dinlle, UK
Marga Bota - Netherlands
Grace Keast - BHP Jetty, Kwinana, WA
Nina Salomon - Boynton Beach, FL
Fenghua McHugh - Northern Neck, VA
Joyce Menze - Northern Neck, VA
Ben Ware - Long Island, NY
Kai Sarnes - Makara Beach, New Zealand
Ronald Blom
The Facebook Page, “It Starts With Me” - Wrightsville Beach, NC

Additional thanks to the 561 worldwide participants in this event. Whether you cleaned-up for 5 minutes or 5 hours...whether you picked up 1 bag or 100 bags of trash - YOU made a difference for our planet!

You can continue to make a difference by:
1. Using reusable bags instead of plastic whenever you can and urging others to do the same;
2. Picking up and disposing of any litter you find; and
3. Teaching your children to take care of our environment by taking only pictures & leaving only footprints.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

International Beach Clean-Up Day - May 28, 2011

Shortly after writing my March 4, 2011 Blog entry, “Take Only Pictures - Leave Only Footprints,” I stumbled across a photo that brought me to my knees. The image above shows the contents of the stomach of a sea turtle who lost the battle to plastic pollution. Almost every single day a news article or video crosses my computer screen about the deadly impact of plastic pollution on our oceans and the animals who call them home.


This Saturday, May 28, 2011, is International Beach Clean-Up Day. The event is sponsored by the facebook page "Take Only Pictures - Leave Only Footprints"

Over 500 people across the world have signed-on to participate! Folks from Spain, Israel, South Africa, St. Maarten, the United States and Saudi Arabia as well as countless others have made the commitment to help out. Imagine the impact of 500 beaches being cleaned around the world?

It is not too late to sign-up to join us! Even better, how about gathering a group of friends and making it a party? Don't have an ocean nearby - how about a lake or a stream? To minimize plastic waste, please bring plenty of reusable buckets as well as work gloves (instead of using plastic bags and gloves). Don’t forget to wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes and some sunscreen. Also, please be sure your tetanus shots are up-to-date before you or anyone in your group handles rusty metal. Have a fully stocked first-aid kit on hand if anyone is cut so their wound can be cleaned immediately. Finally, be sure to provide plenty of drinking water for those working out in the sun. Once you have collected all of your trash, please be sure to dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner.

Please take pictures of your efforts and, if possible, weigh your trash so we can compile records from this first annual event. Be sure to post your results on our facebook wall:


Monday, May 23, 2011

Something FISHY at the Federal Fisheries Agency - Part 2

In my previous post, I reported that on May 12, 2011, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce, authorized the states of Oregon and Washington to take lethal measures to remove up to 85 California sea lions from the Bonneville Dam annually through June 2013. Per the letter signed by James H. Lecky, Director, Office of Protected Resources, the animals identified to be predators of endangered salmon can be shot by marksmen using high powered rifles or shotguns.*

A review of various published reports shows that Lecky brings an interesting history to this position:

Klamath, 2002: In 2002 Lecky gave an illegal order that resulted in the death of at least 33,000 salmon (some endangered) on the Klamath River. Following this action he was PROMOTED from the position of Assistant Southwest Region Administrator to the position of Director of Protected Resources, NMFS. In this capacity, Lecky has oversight on all biological opinions on threatened and endangered species:

Delta, 2004: the Sacramento Bee reported that Lecky ordered NMFS biologists to revise a report on salmon and other endangered fish so that more water can be shipped to Southern California. Whereas agency biologists concluded that this plan to pump more water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could jeopardize endangered salmon and other fish, Lecky overruled them and supervised a rewriting of their analysis. This action removed the last major obstacle to a plan that could send more water south, affecting how much is reserved in Northern California, including for salmon in the American River:

Oregon Wild reports that “A week after he oversaw the approval of the Delta plan, Lecky was promoted to the Senior Executive Service — the highest echelon attainable for a federal employee — which entitles him to earn between $100,000 and $160,000 a year. Lecky will now work part time out of NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., overseeing the protection of all the species NOAA regulates under the Endangered Species Act.”

It is in this present capacity that Lecky now has the authority to issue a death sentence to up to 255 California sea lions for eating salmon near the Bonneville Dam.

Why is a federal employee being rewarded for making decisions that are having an adverse effect on the environment and the animals who live in that environment?

Do you have concerns about the leadership at the NMFS? Please contact:
Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Room 5128
Washington, DC 20230
phone: 301-713-4000

* On May 20, 2011, The Humane Society of the United States filed a federal lawsuit to block the killing of the sea lions.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Something FISHY at the Federal Fisheries Agency - Part 1

California Sea Lions

On May 12, 2011, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce, authorized the states of Oregon and Washington to take lethal measures to remove up to 85 California sea lions from the Bonneville Dam annually through June 2013. Per the letter signed by James H. Lecky, Director, Office of Protected Resources, the animals identified to be predators of endangered salmon can be shot by marksmen using high powered rifles or shotguns.

It seems ironic that James Lecky would order the execution of up to 255 sea lions for eating salmon when he is the very same federal employee who gave an illegal order to in 2002 to signficantly cut in-stream flows on the Klamath River. This action lead to the death of at least 33,000 salmon (some endangered) on the Klamath River.

On July 31, 2007, Mike Kelly, Former NOAA Fisheries Biologist, gave testimony to the House Natural Resources Committee Oversight hearing on "Crisis of Confidence: The Political Influence of the Bush Administration on Agency Science and Decision-Making. Kelly recounted being directed by Lecky to conclude, contrary to available evidence, that sharply reduced flows would not adversely affect federally protection salmon. “I was asked to make 1 + 1 = 3,” he stated, noting that the order was both “bizarre” and illegal.

Kelly's full testimony to the House Natural Resources Committees can be found here:

Following the Klamath fish kill, Lecky was PROMOTED to his current position as Director of Protected Resources for NFMS. In this capacity, he has oversight on all biological opinions on threatened and endangered species. How is it that the federal employee who is responsible for making an illegal decision that resulted in the death of thousands of protected salmon now gets to authorize the death of 255 sea lions - for eating salmon?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Letter to Members of Congress Regarding the Sea Lions at Bonneville Dam


To locate your Members of Congress, go to:

May 19, 2011

The Honorable___________________

I am writing to request your immediate attention to a matter of life or death for the sea lions who reside at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

On May 12, 2011, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce, authorized the states of Oregon and Washington to take lethal measures to remove up to 85 sea lions from the Bonneville Dam annually through June 2013. Per the letter signed by James H. Lecky, the animals can be shot by marksmen using high powered rifles or shotguns.

The sea lions are to be killed for the act of consuming endangered salmon in the Columbia River. This is not a new issue. In 2008, NMFS proposed the euthanization of the salmon-eating sea lions at Bonneville Dam. A threatened lawsuit from the Humane Society resulted in an order from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to remove the sea lions but not kill them.

The sea lions presently slated for death are reported to account for about 4% of the salmon loss in the area of the Bonneville Dam. Conversely, in 2005 NMFS found that the annual take of up to 17% of salmon by fishermen had only “minimal adverse effects”. More recently, the current May 2011 issue of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Weekend Report stated, “Since late April, the number of chinook salmon passing Bonneville Dam has increased dramatically, opening the door to additional fishing opportunities,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Why the double standard? Why are fishermen being encouraged to take endangered salmon from the Columbia River and sea lions being shot for the very same action? While I am well aware that the salmon fishery is a vital component of the the economy of the Pacific Northwest, it seems to me that protecting marine mammals shouldn’t have to take a backseat to the needs of the fishermen.

The decline of fish stocks is a complex problem resulting from numerous factors including among others, overfishing, habitat destruction, and water quality issues. Sea lions eat salmon, but so do birds. Scapegoating the sea lions fails to take the bigger picture into consideration. While the killing may appear to be a short term victory for the fishermen of the Columbia River, in the long haul this will have little effect on the status of the endangered salmon or the overall health of the river. Federal funds, time and energy would be much better spent on finding alternative non-lethal solutions that we can all live with.

PLEASE take action today and demand that NMFS revoke the authorization granted to Washington and Oregon for the lethal removal of the sea lions at the Bonneville Dam.


Sandy McElhaney, M.A.