The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito has recently seen a spike in sick marine animals, a problem that was highlighted when a struggling sea lion pup crawled onto Ocean Beach in San Francisco on Wednesday.
According to Greg Frankfurter, wildlife veterinarian at the center, 50-70 young sea lions are stranded from April through June, on average. This year that number has increased by about 300%.
The cause of the illness is unknown, although it’s clear that the animals are lethargic and malnourished.
“Whenever you can see the pelvic bones or some of the ribs, that is generally an indication that there is some malnourishment happening,” said volunteer Ashley Gray.
Volunteers rescued the sea lion at Ocean Beach while another was picked up at Linda Mar beach in Pacifica. Both were taken to the Marine Mammal Center, where they were given food and fluids and treated for any other conditions. Once they reach a healthy weight, the goal is for them to be released back into the wild.
According to Frankfurter, the sea lions that are in their breeding grounds appear to be healthy. However, the ones appearing on beaches are largely unwell.
“Whether there is some underlying condition we haven’t been able to determine, it could be related to domoic acid, as I mentioned, that we’re seeing in adults,” Frankfurter said.
With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, beachgoers are reminded that if they spot a sea lion on the shore to give it space, keep dogs away, and call the Marine Mammal Center.