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12:31 PM PDT, September 14, 2005
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Sea Lions Sink Boats in Newport Harbor
By Roy Rivenburg, Times Staff Writer

Tonight, the Harbor Commission will discuss the situation, which took on added urgency after 18 sea lions piled onto a 37-foot sailboat this month and sank it.

The sheriff's harbor patrol has been fielding at least two noise complaints a day, Sgt. David Ginther said.

"A barking dog doesn't hold a candle to this. It's like 40 barking dogs — in SurroundSound," grumbled Balboa Peninsula resident Darci Schriber.

For relief, she and her neighbors contemplated painting a small electric boat to look like an orca, complete with piped-in whale sounds.

Seattle tried a similar idea nine years ago after sea lions raided Puget Sound and devoured endangered steelhead trout at a fish ladder. The fiberglass whale, dubbed "Fake Willy," was anchored underwater as an aquatic scarecrow.

It didn't work. Neither did rubber bullets, underwater noises, firecrackers or other methods.

Sea lions have also tormented Monterey, trapping people aboard boats, attacking city workers and defecating and vomiting on docks.

Elsewhere, the animals have attacked swimmers, chomped boogie boards and even yanked people off boats.

Once hunted to the brink of extinction, California sea lions now number 300,000 to 400,000 off U.S. shores, thanks largely to the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, which made it illegal to kill, injure or harass the creatures.

Some Newport Beach residents fear that their harbor could be the next one overrun by sea lions, which typically weigh 200 to 800 pounds.

Could a mass invasion really happen?

"Definitely," said marine biologist Doyle Hanan, a former state Fish and Game Department official who has been working with federal officials on gadgets to deter the sea lions. Along the West Coast, he said, "it's a growing problem and it's going to continue to grow."
Readers hit a mother lode of tomes, new and used, and even find some travel relics (above) in the bookshops of two Gold Country towns. PHOTOS
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