Ever since their creation in 1999, AirDancers–a.k.a. SkyDancers or Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men–have been
distracting drivers attracting attention to used car lots and other businesses thanks to their bright colors, excessive height, and wobbly dance moves. Now they have another slightly more noble profession: scaring invasive sea lions off of Astoria, Oregon’s docks.
This might seem like a mean prank or a low-level form of animal abuse until you realize that the animals are causing more than $100,000 worth of damage to the port each year and could negatively impact the region’s fishing economy, thanks to their taste for migrating salmon.
As KOIN6 News reports, deploying AirDancers is only the latest in the Port of Astoria’s attempts to scare off these critters: thrown beach balls, streamers, and plastic fencing have all failed, but the most spectacular disaster was the use of a fake orca (which sank) last year. As you can see in the video, the sudden appearance of the brightly colored AirDancers appears to have finally frightened the invasive marine mammals off the docks.
Relive the moment below:
Rob Evert of the Port of Astoria responded to the success, saying, “It’s about as anticipated. We know that [there] would be initial surprise and random movement and the bright colors we know actually deters the sea lions.” What remains to be seen is just how effective the AirDancers will be long-term. If successful in keeping Astoria’s docks clear of sea lions, communities with similar problems could take a page out of their book; communities like San Diego’s La Jolla, California.
Though La Jolla Cove’s sea lion population is listed as a tourist attraction, a 2014 write-up in the San Diego Reader called La Jolla Cove a “sea lion cesspool.” Increasingly aggressive interactions on the part of sea lions with human swimmers have led many aquatic athletes to change locations after years of exercising at the cove, and the sea lions’ foul excrement and odors are keeping folks away from area restaurants and hotels, not to mention altering the local water quality. AirDancers might be one solution; sea lion tourism might be another.
Like Vanessa Montoya of The Sea Lion Defense League suggested to the Port of Astoria, the port could have built all new docks with money raised from sea lion tourism. It’s worked well for San Francisco’s Pier 39. Sea lions had made the pier’s K-dock their winter lodging location since it was near a plentiful food source in the bay free from their ocean-based predators. Though the dock used to have boats there, the PIER 39 Marina and The Marine Mammal Center decided to build floating platforms for the sea lions back in 1995, thus providing space for animals and boat-owners alike. And though the docks require a hosing down on occasion to manage the smell, San Francisco seems to have found a mutually beneficial arrangement. Hopefully Astoria and La Jolla can do the same.
HT: KOIN6 News
Images: KOIN6 News