In the latest attempt to shoo away the hundreds of hungry sea lions lying around Port of Astoria docks, the city is bringing in a fake baby orca to swim alongside the adult-sized model Thursday. Reporter Cassandra Profita reports that the models will be dropped into the water after noon.
Port of Astoria director Jim Knight said the fake porpoises will arrive in Astoria on Wednesday night from Bellingham, Washington. The fiberglass pair were made by whale watching company Island Mariner Cruises, which previously used the adult orca replica in parades to promote its business.
The two orcas will be towed out to Astoria's East Mooring Basin the next morning, where Knight said more than 1,000 sea lions are doing what they do best: Eating local fish supplies, lying around where boats would normally dock, barking incessantly and, well, pooping.
"It's horrible, the smell is horrible, the noise is incredible," said Knight.
Once the models are close to the docks, port employees will use a remote control to move the fiberglass orcas to hopefully scare away the smelly, noisy sea lions.
Knight estimates the sea lions have cost the city more than $100,000 in destroyed equipment and clean up. The port has already tried using electric mats (deemed useless after the sea lions were dry), beach balls (so far, somewhat successful) and chicken wire covering the docks. Knight said the chicken wire has been the most effective, but the fencing prevents boats from typing up and people from enjoying the docks.
"On top of that, just recently, it was reported that (10 sea lions and one harbor seal) had been shot," said Knight. "More and more, this interaction between humans and sea lions are entirely incompatible."
The port's unusual tactics to reduce pinneped numbers have attracted national media to the normally sleepy fishing town, including the Today Show.
The killer whales will only be in the city on Thursday before being going back up to Bellingham.
As EarthFix reported, pinnipeds have completely taken over the East Mooring Basin and there’s been a significant bump in numbers in the lower Columbia River. Researchers say this is likely due to unusually warm temperatures in the Pacific that are driving some California sea lions north in search of food.