Over 1,000 sick or starving sea lion pups have washed up on shores in Southern California since January. This trend has been reported about for months, according to the Marine Mammal Care Center.
Some of the pups washing up on shores now are the same ones that were rescued previously. One female pup that was rescued in San Pedro was found in Sausalito in April. It was first rescued earlier in the year. This particular pup had lost half her body weight and was emaciated when she was found in April.
It had been speculated it was radiation that was harming them, but now it appears it is more likely a lack of food sources. Their normal prey (fish and squid) apparently has changed locations and the sea lion pups are physically unable to travel to the new areas to access them. NOAA has declared the situation an Unusual Mortality Event and is investigating.
About seven times the normal number of sea lion pups have been washed up on shores from January 1 to March 31. It has been estimated about 45% of the pups born last June have perished during this very difficult time. Hopefully, the investigators will find out soon what has caused the problem and be able to generate some solutions.
According to the Marine Mammal Center, there are well over 200,000 wild California sea lions. The center treated over 1,400 in 2009. Marine mammal centers around the country rescue many marine species each year, even though recently they have experienced a loss of government funding and may need extra donations to deal with this current seal pup situation.