Sea lion shootings are on the rise in California as fishermen and the aquatic mammal compete for fish. In 2009, over 40 sea lions were reported as shooting victims, and it is anticipated that many more shootings have gone unreported. As humans spread further into sea lion territory, these numbers will only rise. Sea lions that do not die from their wounds are often blinded by buckshot or require severe reconstructive surgery to regain the use of their muzzle. Although the shootings are investigated by officials, very rarely is anyone held accountable due to lack of witnesses. Those who are charged receive paltry sentences--a month in jail and a fee which covers the rehabilitation of the wounded animal. Public outcry is growing, and there is hope that increased media coverage will help deter future shootings. This petition calls on Californian officials to use every available resource to investigate these shootings, to prosecute all offenders, and enact harsher penalties for those who unlawfully shoot sea lions.
Photo: AP Photo/The Times-Herald, Chris Riley
I am thus urging you to use every available resource to investigate all sea lion shootings, as well as prosecute all offenders and enact harsher penalties for those who commit such heinous crimes. One recent offender only faced 30 days in jail for shooting a sea lion in the face--such a measly sentence does not deter future offenders, nor does it provide a just punishment for the crime.
NOAA and the Department of Fish and Game must also do more to educate the public on sea lions. Fisherman must be instructed on protected mammals and the consequences of harming such animals should be widely disseminated. As you know, prosecution of shooters is difficult without witnesses; therefore, your agencies must work closely with fishermen in order to encourage the reporting of these crimes.
It is up to NOAA and the Department of Fish and Game to protect sea lions. Enacting stricter penalties for offenders and working with the public to ensure these crimes are reported will help reduce the occurrences of this violent crime.