Ecocomics: Sherman’s Lagoon Saving Sea Lions.

From Courthouse News Service:

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Decades of efforts, including billions of dollars spent, to prevent the extinction of 13 species of Columbia River salmon and steelhead were stymied by the resurgence of gregarious mammals who themselves returned from the brink. Now, a new plan backed by Native American tribes and three states would attempt to protect the fish by killing more sea lions.

As [the sea lions’] numbers surged, their territory grew. And a few discovered a perpetual banquet: the calm waters below dams in the Columbia River, where imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead rest before leaping ladders and falls during the arduous journey home to their spawning grounds.

From the Northwest Power and Conservation Council:

If you are a fan of the comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon, which features a hilarious group of sea creatures in a mythical South Pacific lagoon, you may have noticed recently that the strip has come to the defense of sea lions in the Columbia River.

The strip’s timing is spot on. State fish and wildlife agencies and Columbia River Indian tribes have applied for a federal permit to increase the number and places where the most aggressive sea lion predators can be killed, in order to reduce their take of spring Chinook salmon, and other fish species, in the Columbia and tributaries downstream of McNary Dam.

Says cartoonist Jim Toomey, creator of Sherman’s Lagoon:

“Basically, my job is to scan the water-oriented headlines, either regarding the ocean or in this case regarding the conservation headlines, to look for story lines … I look for unusual things, unusual places, unusual animals, and potential wacky storylines.”


Today, Jim also spoke to The Columbian:

“It’s such an unusual situation at the Columbia River, where you have environmental forces, governments and fishermen all condoning the killing of sea lions, or actually doing the killing. That really caught my eye.”

These are serious issues, but Toomey’s main job is to keep “Sherman’s Lagoon” fun, he said. That’s one reason why Sherman’s sea lion adoptee turns out to be a smarmy, cigar-smoking irritant.

“My first priority is the comedy,” Toomey said. “I always use the metaphor of a Trojan horse. You get inside with something charming, then you have an opportunity to make an argument or acknowledge the complexity of the issue once you’re inside.”

The story of Sherman and Megan’s adoption of Lester continues this week: