No good deed goes unpunished.
In this case, the good deed put California sea lions under the protection of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972. It worked wonders: The population of these jumbo pinnipeds skyrocketed to nearly 300,000 strong along our West Coast today.
The punishment for that well-intentioned act is now being doled out to salmon and steelhead with take-no-prisoners ferocity, particularly in the mighty Columbia River and its tributaries, home to a great many wild, genetically unique runs of the iconic fish.
There’s no denying that human activities have altered the habitat with great dams, such as the Bonneville, and in other ways, have created unnatural bottlenecks forcing salmon and steelhead to queue up at times in great numbers to enter the fish ladders they must ascend to continue upriver and spawn.
What is an impediment for salmon has become an all-you-can-eat snack bar for hungry sea lions. Fishermen for years witnessing the slaughter term it the “Bonneville buffet.”
So two changes wrought by human intervention now require a third intervention.