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Another sea lion confirmed shot and killed in Puget Sound

Seal Sitters MMSN Co-Investigator Lynn Shimamoto responds to a dead California sea lion in West Seattle. (Photo Copyright: Robin Lindsey, Seal Sitters MMSN)

Following another necropsy, a 10th sea lion has been confirmed to be shot and killed in Puget Sound, according to the Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

The group, which responds to reports of stranded or dead sea lions, noted on their blog Sunday morning that the shot sea lions now totals 10.

Sixteen dead sea lions have been reported throughout King and Kitsap counties, some of whom suffered "acute trauma," which can be caused by a number of incidents, including human interaction (boating collisions or shooting), or animal attacks (killer whales or sharks). The latest confirmed shooting death was a sea lion found in West Seattle on Friday.

The Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network noted in an earlier post that the number of sea lions shot recently is six times higher than the yearly average between September and November, worrying that the "high season" for violence against the animals is still to come.

Killing sea lions remains illegal under the Marine Mammal Act. The punishment for killing one can be up to a year in prison and a $25,000 fine. Laws recommend that a minimum distance of 100 yards is best for keeping sea lions safe.

The Seal Sitters join NOAA and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in trying to stop the violence. NOAA is reportedly working on developing guidelines to encourage fisherman to use nonviolent methods to deter sea lions, while also investigating the recent slayings.

"We are concerned about a number of recent reports of marine mammal deaths caused by gunshots in the greater Seattle area," Greg Busch, assistant director of NOAA Fisheries' West Coast Office of Law Enforcement, said in a statement last week. "All marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and OLE investigates all reported unlawful takes of sea lions."

Two organizations, Marine Animal Rescue and Sea Shepherd Seattle, offer rewards for any information leading to an arrest in the shootings.

If you have a tip for investigators, NOAA's hotline is 800-853-1964. If you see a dead marine mammal offshore, or one that's alive or dead on the shore, report it to Seal Sitters at 206-905-SEAL.

SeattlePI reporter Zosha Millman can be reached at zoshamillman@seattlepi.com. Follow Zosha on Twitter at @zosham. Find more from Zosha here on her author page.

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