Starving sea lions washing up in California- Another impact of climate change



More than 1,800 stranded and malnourished baby sea lions have made their appearance on the southern coast of California since the beginning of this year. The nursing mothers, unable to provide adequate food to their supporting pups or newly-weaned babies, are forced to search for food deeper into the ocean, leaving them alone on the beach.

Young sea lions, which in normal circumstances would still grow next to their mothers, travel all alone in the open ocean and wash up on the coast of California. The baby sea lions arrive at beaches dehydrated and emaciated, and some of them die from starvation. According to scientists of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Center, this event of increased strandings of California sea lion pups on the shores always existed, but not in such large numbers.

Scientists of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have announced that the situation is so difficult that they can’t answer all of the phone calls of citizens who want to report stranded sea lions. Justin Viezbicke, coordinator for the rescue of small sea lions at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Associated Press that even if the rescue teams manage to save most of the pups, this is a worrying trend for younger sea lions.

Since 2013, there has been a rapid increase in this tragic situation, but this year 1,450 pups have become stranded on the coast. Volunteers of the Center for Marine Research in California do not have enough time to feed and take care of all the young sea lions. Over 1,800 washed up on the west coast since January. Many of these animals arrive in various research centers ill and in advanced stages of starvation. Most are babies and weigh only between 15 and 25 pounds when they should weigh between 60 and 70 pounds. According to recent evidence, this unusual mortality event is not caused by a single infectious agent, even though a variety of disease-causing bacteria and viruses were found in samples from sea lion pups.


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About the author

Irini Chassioti is a teacher and chemist with a master’s degree in Environmental Chemistry and Technology. She was born and raised in the northern suburbs of Athens and is an active member of the local city improvement association. Her activities include the protection of the local ecosystem, writing scientific articles related to environment, ecology and sustainable development and the education of pupils on environmental issues.