Mass Number of Sea Lion Strandings in California

Source: UT San Diego/Deborah Sullivan Brennan - January 30, 2015 in Environment

Wave after wave of starving sea lion pups are drifting ashore in what officials said could be an outbreak of strandings similar to that seen in 2013 along California’s coastline.

The warmer waters flushed in by El Niño, a periodic marine and atmospheric phenomenon, might be shifting the animals’ food supply. That could be leaving mother sea lions malnourished and forcing pups to strike out on their own too soon, experts said.

For the past decade, sea lion strandings have averaged about 250 during the key period of monitoring between each January and April, said Justin Viezbicke with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service.

Since Jan. 1 of this year, however, marine mammal centers along the state have already received 150 of the animals.

In 2013, about 1,350 sea lions — more than five times the annual average — stranded on California beaches in what officials classified as an “unusual mortality event.”

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