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Pier 39 was supposed to be a scene full of celebration Friday to mark the 20th anniversary of the sea lions' presence at Pier 39. But the party has been postponed until the animals, most of which inexplicably disappeared in November, return to their old post.
After a record-high 1,701 sea lions in October, the animals fled without warning the following month. So, instead of a party, marine mammal experts will use the time Friday as a teachable moment and will be there to educate people about sea lions.
The Web cam mounted at the Pier 39 Restaurant tells the sad tale of the missing sea lions. At 6:30 a.m. Thursday, the docks visible in the camera's view were all empty.
Jim Oswald, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Center, said there were about 20 animals out on the dock Wednesday. The marine center has been monitoring the sea lions since they first appeared in 1990.
Oswald said it could take anywhere from weeks to months for the sea lions to return, depending upon food sources and other environmental factors.
The sea lions first came to Pier 39's "K" dock in large numbers in mid-January of 1990, when about 150 of them appeared without warning, according to the Marine Mammal Center. About 150 to 300 of them have been hauling out every year since. This year they came out in record numbers.