NBC: Record level of sick or injured California seals and sea lions turning up — “The numbers are extraordinary” — “Scientists worried… The worst kind of perfect storm” — Pups should be weighing 2 or 3 times as much, “severely malnourished” (VIDEO)
Published: April 18th, 2014 at 11:10 pm ET
NBC Bay Area, Apr. 18, 2014: Seals and sea lions in California are turning up sick or injured at a record pace this year. Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center has more animals in its care right now than ever before in its 39-year history. There are three factors at play: First of all, this is the time of year when pups get stranded or separated from their mothers for an unknown reason. Also last year’s sea lion epidemic sent malnourished, sick pups onto California shores at record levels. On top of that, a Monterey Bay algae bloom is making a lot of animals sick. Experts say it’s creating the worst kind of perfect storm.
NBC Southern California, Apr. 17, 2014: Scientists Worry Sea Lion Epidemic May Return […] Marine scientists are worried about the increasing number of sick, often severely malnourished, sea lions showing up at a San Pedro care facility. […] An increase in the number of stranded sea lion pups in Southern California has scientists and marine mammal experts asking the question, “Could it be happening again?” […] The center was caring for more than 200 mammals Thursday, most of them California sea lion pups. […] During a normal year, in comparison, the center takes in about 250 animals total. […] Experts hope what they were dealing with last year was an anomaly rather than a new normal for California’s sea lion pup population.
Kaitlin Rixon, National Marine Mammal Foundation volunteer: “Right now, when we are doing intake, we are seeing the sea lion pups to be around 20 pounds. They should be around 50 pounds, so they are severely malnourished.”
David Bard, director of Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro: “It was definitely linked to food availability or the distribution of their normal food source last year.[…] Is it related to human activity along the coastline […] or is it something of a natural source?”
Jeff Boehm, Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito: The numbers are extraordinary […] “Out of the gates this year, it’s a record-setting pace. We don’t know what May is going to bring us yet. We don’t what June is going to bring us yet. We’ve had peaks of activity as late as October.”
See also: L.A. Times: Alarming West Coast sardine crash likely radiating through ecosystem — Experts warn marine mammals and seabirds are starving, may suffer for years to come
Watch NBC’s Bay Area broadcast here and Southern California broadcast here
CBS San Francisco: Record number of sick seals & sea lions — Doctor: A lot with “large pockets of green and yellow puss all over their body” (PHOTO & VIDEOS)
Published: April 20th, 2014 at 4:49 pm ET
CBS San Francisco, Apr. 16, 2014: Marine Mammal Center Says More Animals In Need Than Ever Before […] Walking among the pens of California sea lions, elephant seals and harbor seals, Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman Laura Sherr said they expect to have 200 mammals by the end of the week, which will be a per-day record.
CBS Video Title: A record number of seals and sea lions have become sick and are being treated at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito >> Full broadcast here
KCBS Radio, Apr. 16, 2014 — Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman Laura Sherr: “Right now we have in hand, live animals, 194.” […] The previous per day record for patients at the facility was 179. >> Full broadcast here
USC Impact, Kaysie Ellingson, Mar. 27, 2014: An environmental problem threatens the lives of sea lions on the California coast
At 8:30 in
Rescue and rehabilitation wasn’t the [California Wildlife Center’s] only responsibility. Much of their work dealt with the pups that had died.
Duane Tom, veterinarian at the California Wildlife Center: “We were doing a lot of necropsy for them. We found a lot with abscesses — there were just large pockets of green and yellow puss all over their body — whether it’s in their lungs, in their liver. It looks like they got sick systemically.”
Alarm as record numbers of seals & sea lions ‘starving to death’ along California coast — “It’s just spiked… calls started coming nonstop” — “So many unhealthy… washing ashore” — “Extremely complex issue… multitude of factors in play” — “Definitely a mystery, we’re hoping it’s not the new norm”
Published: May 4th, 2014 at 6:28 pm ET
Orange County Register, May 2, 2014: Sea lions are […] washing ashore, many of them pups dehydrated, malnourished and on the brink of death. The year started off quieter than last year, and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center’s director of development, Melissa Sciacca, thought they were in the clear – until about a month ago, when the calls started coming in nonstop. […] “We thought it was going to be a nice calm year; in the last month it’s just spiked,” she said. “The rescues just keep coming in at a steady pace.” It’s the second year stranded sea lions have been reported in alarming numbers. […] Last year, scientists tested for radioactivity, and it was determined that wasn’t the cause, and infectious disease was also ruled out.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 2014: Young seals, sea lions starving in record numbers — Rescuers are scrambling to save a record number of young sea lions and seals along California’s northern and central coast while scientists work to understand why the animals are beaching themselves […] The emaciated and dehydrated pups are turning up along the 600 miles of coastline from Mendocino to San Luis Obispo monitored by the Marine Mammal Center. Many are too weak to move after washing ashore […] As of Wednesday, the center had brought in 429 California sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals and fur seals this year. That’s well above the 291 animals admitted by the same date last year […] Southern California witnessed an almost 70 percent die-off of young sea lions – those born in summer 2012 – near the Channel Islands, where most American sea lions breed.
Sharon Melin, NOAA biologist: “In 2013, it was only the young animals that tried to do it on their own […] this year there’s lots of stranding going on, but those are a different age-class of pups.”
Dr. Shawn Johnson, Marine Mammal Center: “The ones we are seeing are basically starving to death […] It’s definitely a mystery. We’re hoping it’s not the new norm.”
Coastline Pilot, May 1, 2014: “In the last month we’ve seen the rescues spike,” [Pacific Marine Mammal Center’s Keith Matassa] said. […] Researchers are still trying to determine why so many unhealthy sea lions are washing ashore. “The reasons behind the animal strandings are an extremely complex issue,” Matassa said. “Although there is a leading theory that their food source is playing a significant role, there are a multitude of factors that come in to play.”
“Starving to death”? From last week: SF Chronicle: “Unbelievable hordes” of fish near California coast; Most birds, sea lions, dolphins, whales anywhere — Expert: ‘Off the charts’ pelican population “highly unusual… could reflect breeding failures elsewhere”; “Abnormal ocean conditions” to blame?