It’s nearly impossible to walk along the beaches of Malibu without spotting a sea lion pup “sun-bathing” on the sand. Ordinarily, this would be adorable and a great photo-op, right? The first time I saw one when I moved to California I was so excited, I told my family and obviously posted an Instagram. But now, things are different. Now, I’ve been nearly scarred by the amount of sea lions dying on California coast in the last three months (February, March, April of 2015) alone.
Mid-March I was at Point Dume in Malibu ready to enjoy a picnic and beach day, until we arrived and saw NINE sea lions washed on shore. Seven dead, two dying. It was horrific and inspired me to research what is happening in our ocean and why?
To fill you in: The sea lion prey has been harder and harder for the mothers to find, due to unknown causes, since 2013; becoming progressively worse. Sardines, which are the highest source of nutrition for the sea lion, are dissipating (one possibility is the unusually warm waters). While there are signs of an adequate number of market squid and rockfish, they are likely not getting the right nutrition from them. The mother sea lions are fetching further and deeper away from the shore to find food for their young pups; leaving the pups stranded for far too long. The pups are fighting to get to shore to relax, but they are malnourished and frail; this is also where they are passing away.
The pups washing ashore are 44% underweight from what they should be. Over 1,500 pups have come ashore in 2015 alone. There are major efforts to take the stranded pups to marine wildlife centers, but most centers along the California coast are at capacity. There are some efforts to bring the pups that cannot be rescued to secluded beaches to rest in peace – without human interaction or pestering.
What Can You Do?
* If you see a sea lion pup on shore, immediately call the West Coast Fisheries, Whale Rescue Team or Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
* Do not, by any means, go near the sea lion. They are weak and fragile, the attempt at splashing it with water or trying to feed it your beach snacks will only prolong their suffering.
* Donate and volunteer at the centers mentioned above. Every bit counts.
What Does This Tell Us?
Something is happening in the ocean that is unexplainable. Scientists and experts have ruled out the possibility of a disease, and are investigating the water temperatures. That being said, it’s too soon to blame the water temperature and not rule out the fact that there is something happening beneath the waves that we are noticing through this unfortunate epidemic.
Recycle, help when you can, be smart, and raise awareness about this situation.