Sick and Dead Sea Lions and Dolphins Washing Ashore In Southern California
A concerning trend has emerged along the Southern California coastline, as marine biologists and conservation organizations report a surge in the number of sick sea lions and dolphins washing up on beaches. Stretching from Santa Barbara through Santa Monica and down into Orange County, the prevalence of these distressed marine mammals has reached levels not seen in many years.
Experts warn that this pattern may indicate an extreme event occurring in the region, ABC 7 reports, demanding urgent attention and conservation efforts.
Distressed Marine Life
One organization at the forefront of marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, the Marine Mammal Care Center, has found itself overwhelmed with the influx of sea lions requiring their assistance. With several dozen sea lions under their care in San Pedro, the center is facing resource constraints.
🚨 PLEASE READ AND SHARE! We are currently caring for over 50 domoic acid (DA) patients as they strand on SoCal beaches. The increase in distressed animals reported to MMCC is putting strains on resources. Save a life today at https://t.co/ZStd0fCxFt! pic.twitter.com/f9Q9lHV7cJ
— Marine Mammal Care Los Angeles | marinemammalcare (@MMCCLA) June 22, 2023
“The Center is dealing with an enormous increase in reports of marine mammals in distress each day,” John Warner, CEO of the Marine Mammal Care Center based in San Pedro, told FOX 11.
“We are doing the best we can to keep up with the intense pace, and, if history is any indication, we can expect to see anywhere from 75 to 150 animals in need of rescue over the next four to six weeks.”
Dave Bader, a marine biologist and the chief operations and education officer at the Marine Mammal Care Center, told ABC 7 that the cause behind this distress is a harmful algal bloom.
Harmful Algal Bloom
The presence of planktonic algae in the waters gives them a greenish hue, indicating the occurrence of a harmful algal bloom. This bloom produces a toxin that accumulates in the food chain. When marine animals such as seals, sea lions, and dolphins consume fish that have ingested this toxic algae, they develop a condition known as domoic acid toxicosis. Symptoms include seizures, extreme lethargy, aggressiveness, and, in severe cases, death.
In the face of this environmental crisis, the public can play a vital role in aiding the recovery and protection of these marine mammals. Firstly, it is crucial to maintain a safe distance from the distressed animals. According to NOAA Fisheries, if encountering an injured or sick sea lion or dolphin, it is advised to stay at least 50 feet away and immediately call for professional help. The Marine Mammal Care Center provides a dedicated hotline at 800-39-WHALE, where trained responders can assess the situation and determine if a rescue operation is necessary.
— Marine Mammal Care Los Angeles | marinemammalcare (@MMCCLA) June 23, 2023
“It is important for the public to know that animals who have ingested domoic acid (DA) pose a very serious public health and safety risk,” Warner said in a statement. “Adult seals and sea lions with DA can present in unpredictable ways, including increased aggressiveness or lethargy and unresponsiveness. Please keep your distance from animals you see on the beach and immediately call us if you suspect an animal is in distress.”
The Marine Mammal Care Center, recognizing the urgency of the situation, is striving to meet the growing demand for rescue and rehabilitation facilities. This includes expanding their capacity and acquiring necessary supplies. The center is actively fundraising to support these efforts and is dedicated to providing the best care possible for the affected marine animals.