Over 1,600 young sea lions have stranded on California’s beaches, starving and on the brink of death barely three months ago.
This number surpass an alarming “unusual mortality event” in 2013 wherein some 1,300 young pinnepeds were stranded by the end of March. “We’ve doubled our rescues and there seems to be no end in sight,” Peter Wallerstein, president of Marine Animal Rescue in Playa Del Rey, told NBC
No cause has been officially declared to explain this year’s high numbers, but scientists think the unusually warm waters have made food harder to find for their mothers. With warm water driving their mothers away from the islands for longer periods of time, the pups, who are too young to be able to hunt on their own, venture off and wind up stranded on the beaches, if they survive at all. Home to the largest breeding population of sea lions in America, the Channel Islands, are where most of the stranded pups come from in Southern California.
Sharon Melin, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, told the New York Times, “The environment is changing too rapidly. Their life history is so much slower that it’s not keeping up.”
David Bard of San Pedro’s Marine Mammal Care Center, SeaWorld parks in San Diego and San Antonio, Texas have suspended their sea lion shows in order to send trainers to aid in the rescue and rehabilitation efforts. With marine mammal rehabilitation centers up and down the coast filled with sick pups, sometimes the difficult decision must be made to not admit or even euthanize some of the animals. “We’re doing everything we can to take in as many patients as we can,” he said. The sea lion population remains quite robust and the species won’t be going away any time soon, as catastrophic-sounding and tragic the numbers seems to be, as scientists estimate the population to be over 300,000.