Take a look at this face (left). Did he deserve to die for killing endangered salmon?
It's a tough question, we all want to save endangered species, especially iconic and valuable fish like salmon. But what do we do when there's a conflict between this and other social values, like the respect many people have for marine mammals?
In this case, some sea lions are being killed by the government when they're caught feeding on salmon that are vulnerable because they have to swim up narrow fish ladders. The endangered salmon present an easy target for the non-endangered and thus expendable sea lions.
The sea lion in the picture was known as C265, he was an adult male California sea lion and he was the first sea lion killed for eating endangered salmon in the Columbia River. According to the Sea Lion Defense Brigade, other sea lions have been killed in the last month.
In a sense, the executed sea lions were just doing what comes naturally, eating fish. But they exploited some man-made habitats where they found easy pickins of endangered salmon that we're spending millions to save.
It's worthy of note that the sea lions were killing fewer salmon than human fishermen, so it's a bit hypocritical that we object so heavily to what the sea lions are doing. Sea lions were seen taking 0.4% to 4.2% of the salmon run, not exactly devastating by itself. But, in combination with human impacts, they were eating too many salmon, and they had to go.
In reality, these sea lions were the victims of human development. There's no easy answer here, and we're going to face more of these problems in the future if we really want to save endangered species.