The bodies of sea lions that met violent deaths have been washing up in Washington state—and since some of the bodies have gunshot wounds, sharks are not suspected. The Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding group says of the 13 sea lions that have washed up since September, six were dead from gunshot wounds and the rest died from "acute trauma suspected from human interactions," including one that was decapitated, NBC News reports. The group says that sea lion deaths caused by humans rise along with fishing runs since sea lions and fishermen are competing for the same fish. They predict that the peak fishing season from December to February will bring more deaths. NOAA Fisheries is urging fishermen to try different ways to deter the animals, including using horns, bells, underwater firecrackers, or even rubber bullets.
West Seattle resident Randie Stone tells the Seattle Times that two dead sea lions washed up near her home in the space of two days. The first one had been repeatedly shot. "To me, this is such a heinous act," she says. Authorities are investigating the killings, which carry a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $28,500 fine under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Over the last 20 years, as the creatures' numbers rose to more than 250,000, more than 700 California sea lions that were shot or stabbed have washed up on the West Coast, though prosecutions of fishermen for the killings have been rare. (This community tried to scare off sea lions with a fake killer whale.)