More than 2,000 sea lions — most of them helpless pups — have washed up along the Southern California shore. Scientists say the animals are suffering fromz a scarcity of natural prey, forcing
Starving and stranded sea lion pups wash up in Southern California
More than 2,000 sea lions — most of them helpless pups — have washed up along the Southern California shore.
Scientists say the animals are suffering fromz a scarcity of natural prey, forcing nursing mothers to venture farther out for food…as their young pups stay behind.
Starving and stranded – their numbers reflect what Justin Viezbicke of the National Marine Fisheries Service fears is a worsening phenomenon — blamed on warming seas that have disrupted their food supply.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) JUSTIN VIEZBICKE, CALIFORNIA STRANDING NETWORK COORDINATOR FOR NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE, SAYING:
“So currently, off the coast of California we have an estimated population of California sea lions right around 300,000. This year, since the beginning of January we’ve had about 2,460 California sea lion pups come ashore all throughout the coast of California. Of those currently in house as of the end of March, we had about 750 California sea lions in our facilities throughout the state.”
Experts say the number of these stranded marine mammals is nearly 20 times the average level of strandings — over the past DECADE.
But the possibility of rescue and rehabilitation may be far more grim than many would expect.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) JUSTIN VIEZBICKE, SAYING:
“It’s very difficult and I’ve had a lot of really though heart to heart conversations with people on the phone trying to explain that we’re doing our best but the reality is, with our limited resources, there’s only so much that we can do and then after that mother nature is going to take her course.”
Normally stronger winds would help pull in prey from the Pacific.
Now, their food supply chains are believed to be disrupted due to unusually mild winds along the West Coast.
And the number of stranded sea lions could be much higher — with estimated strandings only accounting for those found and brought to rescue centers.
Many more are left to perish ashore, alone.