LA Times, Feb 12, 2015 (emphasis added): [A] record number of sea lions [have] been rescued in recent weeks. “One hundred and two California sea lions in the last 10 days,” a spokeswoman for the [Marine Mammal Center] said… The influx is unprecedented…
National Geographic, Feb 12, 2015: Since January 1, nearly 500 of the tiny animals have been [rescued] a number many times higher than normal. Why these animals are struggling to survive is a mystery… California sea lions are considered a sentinel species, meaning they’re seen as indicators of ocean health. Generally, if sea lions are suffering, something is wrong offshore. In this case, scientists still don’t really know what that something is… Starting in January 2013, waves of starving sea lion pups began washing ashore… Scientists noted that the stranding pattern resembled that of severe El Niño years [with] warm ocean waters… The trouble was, these weren’t El Niño years… January 2014, strandings started to swell again… Now, 2015 is looking even worse… more than 470 sea lions have been admitted to California rehab centers… For now, it’s too soon to say… if the sea lion pups are heralding the demise of something else beneath the waves.
San Jose Mercury News, Feb 12, 2015: Sea lions desperate for nourishment dying off in alarming numbers on California coast… in what’s alarmingly become a third year of massive sea lion pup dieoffs. And if the trend continues, marine biologists warn, it could deplete an entire generation…
Daily Breeze, Jan 19, 2015: Scientists are still investigating possible causes for the… “unusual mortality event” in 2013… it was believed as many as two-thirds of the sea lion pup population off the coast was wiped out.*
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Feb 1, 2015: In 2013 only 30 percent [of sea lion pups] survived.*
OC Register, Jan 27, 2015: [In 2012] there was no sign of a problem. A year later, nearly 70 percent of the newborns had died*… [In 2013, Sharon Melin, a NOAA wildlife biologist] recorded pups at only half their previous weights [and] last September, the weights were down again… [Melin had] another research trip out last month. But the skinny pups had only gained 4 pounds… “We’ve told the centers to prepare for the worst,” she said.
San Diego Union Tribune, Jan 27, 2015: Scientists [are in] fear… based not only on what they have encountered in recent weeks but also the early warning signs… Pups in the Channel Island rookeries were about 19 percent below average weight in September… Nearly one out of three pups born last summer have died.**
San Diego Ch. 6, Jan 28, 2015: Nearly 1 of 3 pups born last summer have already died**
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries: The sea lions ahve a birth rate of about 50,000 a year
* 70% of 2012-13 newborns died — 35,000 dead, based on an average of 50,000 births a year.
** 33% of 2014-15 newborns have already died — 16,667 dead, based on average birth rate.
Published: February 15th, 2015 at 3:15 pm ET