$20K reward to find boater who drove through sea lions on Columbia River

Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 5:32 PM PDT
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HAYDEN ISLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement is hoping the public can help them identify a boater who drove through a herd of sea lions earlier this month.

A video recording shows a boat heading east away from the Interstate Bridge and taking aim at resting California sea lions in the Columbia River on April 3 near Hayden Island. The boat runs through the herd but then takes aim at another down the river, and again runs them over. It’s unclear if any sea lions were hurt.

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Michael Milstein, a spokesperson for NOAA said the organization is frustrated this happened on the Columbia River.

“We try to work with the fishing community to provide options to manage the approach of sea lions but these animals are wildlife,” Milstein said. “They’re protected by the marine mammal protection act.”

Michael said there are legal ways fishermen can deter sea lions from going after their catch. But intentionally running them over is not one of them. He said the consequence of actions like this could lead to fines, seizing the boat involved, or even jail time.

“We are certainly taking this seriously. These animals come back to the Columbia River every year to some extent. They’re drawn to food, usually the same species in some cases anglers are going for and we need to provide them the space and respect they need to live.”

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The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits harassment, hunting, capturing or killing marine animals, and NOAA is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information that leads to a civil penalty or criminal conviction of the boater.

The boat is described as a 19 to 20-foot aluminum Hewescraft Pro-V Sea Runner with a dark blue stripe. The boat has a soft top with an aluminum Barewest Fish & Wake Tower and is powered by a Yamaha outboard motor.

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Anyone with information about the boat, the operation, or the incident should contact investigators at 360-310-0259 or the 24/7 hotline at 800-853-1964.