The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the deaths of approximately ten California sea lions and one harbor seal found floating in the waters near Astoria, Oregon, over the past two months. The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

According to NOAA, multiple expended shell casings of various calibers were found during the months of April and May on the causeway at the East End Mooring Basin and at the water’s edge at the foot of 9th Street in Astoria. The deceased sea lions and harbor seal were found floating in the vicinity. The locations of the shell casings are known haul-out areas for marine mammals. The cause of death for the animals was determined to be gunshot wounds.

A recent rash of sea lion killings is coinciding with a die-off of sea lions in Southern California that has seen stranding response centers in California scrambling to rescue over 2,000 starving young animals.

Scott Beckstead, Oregon state director for the HSUS, said: “It is ironic that, on one hand we see humans reaching out to help suffering animals at the same time that others are breaking the law and killing them. Shooting sea lions and harbor seals is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and is punishable by criminal penalties up to $100,000 and one year of imprisonment. Civil penalties up to $11,000 per violation may also be assessed. The HSUS is grateful for NOAA’s work to investigate this crime and hope someone comes forward with information.”

Anyone with information concerning the shootings is asked to call NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement in Astoria, Oregon, at 503-325-5934 or the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Callers may remain anonymous.

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