LOCAL NEWS

Group of sea lions overtakes privately-owned Ballard dock

Jan 25, 2022, 11:21 AM | Updated: 12:32 pm
Sea lions...
Sea lions lying down on a Ballard dock. (Lauren Donovan, KIRO 7)
(Lauren Donovan, KIRO 7)

A privately-owned dock in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is now home to at least 20 sea lions, who moved in over the weekend and have been there ever since.

Sea lion deaths have deep roots in Seattle history

Currently, temporary fencing surrounds the dock, owned by Ballard resident Rich Girabaldi. In an interview with the Seattle Times, Girabaldi detailed his unsuccessful attempt to place kayaks on the dock to keep the sea lions away, only to see them take that as an opportunity to lie down inside of the kayaks.

Others in the area have welcomed their new neighbors, including Ray’s Cafe employee Chip Croteau.

“They’ve been a pleasure to have around,” Croteau told KIRO 7 TV. “There’s always (marine mammal) activity in some way, shape, or form. But the sea lions, the way they’ve been on the little barges out there in the dozens is new.”

The sea lions — which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds each — arrived in Ballard from California, but have been known to range as far north as southeast Alaska.

This also isn’t the first time Ballard has played host to sea lions, albeit to mixed results.

Two enormous sea lions stretch out on tiny boat near Olympia

In 1985, a sea lion not-so-lovingly dubbed Herschel, and his gang of 10 compatriots swam up to Shilshole Bay from California. At first, residents were enamored, as Herschel’s gang set up its home along the docks of the Ballard Locks. Tourist visits to the gang’s spot numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Soon, though, Herschel and his crew began to decimate the local ecosystem, camping conveniently between the migration of 4,000 steelhead trout and the safety of the fish ladder. Estimates from the time calculate that Herschel was consuming a trout every six minutes, with just one out of every two that passed through his gang’s area successfully making it out alive.

Although Herschel eventually disappeared without a trace, a 1994 amendment to the Marine Mammals Protection Act was approved as a direct reaction to the damage he incurred, permitting the “lethal removal” of sea lions negatively impacting local ecosystems. Since 2008, around 200 sea lions have been lethally removed from the Puget Sound area.

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Group of sea lions overtakes privately-owned Ballard dock