Reward offered for information on sea lion shootings

February 2019

NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information that leads to a civil penalty or criminal conviction in the shootings of California sea lions in and around West Seattle.

x-ray of sea lion skull with 5 circled shotgun pellets

An x-ray of a sea lion found dead on a West Seattle beach, with shotgun pellets (circled in red) in its head. Image: courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

More than 12 sea lions have been confirmed shot in Washington’s King and Kitsap counties since September.

Sea lions and other marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which carries civil penalties of up to $28,520 per count, a year in prison, criminal fines, and forfeiture of any vessel involved.

“We are concerned about a number of recent reports of marine mammal deaths caused by gunshots in the greater Seattle area. OLE investigates all reported unlawful takes of sea lions,” said Greg Busch, Assistant Director of the West Coast Division of NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement.

A dead California Sea Lion lying in shallow water with a gunshot wound and blood on its side.

A California sea lion found dead on a West Seattle Beach with a gunshot wound. Photo: Robin Lindsey

Anyone with information should call the case agent direct at 206-526-4300 or the 24/7 hotline for reporting marine resource violations at 1-800-853-1964.  To report a dead, injured, or stranded marine mammal, call the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network: 1-866-767-6114.

Sea lion shootings have become a regular occurrence in the Pacific Northwest during fall and winter, when male sea lions travel north from their rookeries in the Channel Islands in Southern California to feed. The number of shootings confirmed so far this winter is substantially greater than other recent years.

The MMPA prohibits harassment, hunting, capturing, or killing of marine mammals. However, the law contains exceptions allowing non-lethal methods to deter marine mammals from damaging private property, including fishing gear and catch, so long as it does not result in the death or serious injury of an animal.


NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement

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