Starving Sea Lion Pups Along Southern California Coast Near Crisis

by on March 12, 2013 · 7 comments

in Environment, Health, Ocean Beach, San Diego

SeaWorld Has Rescued 11 Sea Lion Pups in Just 3 Days; 18 Rescued by Laguna Beach Group in 2 Days

By Greg Bledsoe and R. Stickney / NBC 7 / March 12, 2013

An increasing number of California sea lion pups have been stranding along the coast of in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

sea lion pups starvnThe number of pups needing emergency care is so great that one rescue organization has declared a state of emergency.

 “We don’t know what the problem is now,” said Susan Chivers, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

 “What we’re seeing is a lot of skinny pups which suggests they’re not getting sufficient nourishment, and dying of starvation basically.”

 NBC 7 San Diego first reported on the unusual number of sea lion pups wandering ashore along San Diego’s coastline Monday.

SeaWorld San Diego staffers rescued 11 sea lion pups in just 3 days from locations like Mission Beach and .

The phenomenon has been happening for two weeks along beaches in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

On Monday, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach declared its own state of emergency after it performed 12 rescues Saturday – a single-day record for the organization.

The center released images of its center showing a large number of sea lions clustered in one room.

Chivers said marine mammal experts are beginning to discuss the problem and gather data to try and better understand why the pups are dying.

The number of rescues is concerning because not only are more occurring at an earlier time than usually reported but also because experts aren’t sure what’s happening.

“There’s something going on oceanographically that there’s not sufficient food available for the moms to nurse their pups or the pups, as they’re starting to eat on their own, to find,” said Chivers.

sea lion pup jg 02 5-5-10 sm

Sea lion pup that crawled underneath police vehicle, May 2010. (Photo by Jim Grant.)

The typical sea lion pup is round and robust. As she looked at a photo of a California sea lion pup taken recently along the coast, Chivers described evidence showing dehydration and malnourishment.

 “Basically, you can see its backbone. You can see its shoulder blades,” she said.

 The next step for all these groups is to work together to find out why.

Part of that process will be to perform necropsies on the dead sea lion pups that have been found. Scientists are hoping that finding the exact cause of death may help them find out what is happening.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is concerned about the funding needed to house and rehabilitate the large number of sea lions. The pups may need to stay at the center for two to four months before returning to the wild.

Northern California is not seeing the same numbers of stranded sea lion pups according to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

The center is just getting going with its local pupping season for elephant seals and harbor seals according to spokesperson Jim Oswald.

They expect in a month they’re going to see a lot more sea lions as that pupping season kicks into high gear NBC Bay Area’s Joe Rosato Jr. reports.

SeaWorld San Diego suggests anyone who spots a marine mammal that might be in need of help notify a lifeguard, park ranger or the local marine mammal rescue facility.

The hotline for the SeaWorld Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program is 800-541-SEAL.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Cindi March 12, 2013 at 6:20 pm

“We don’t know what the problem is now,” said Susan Chivers, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service. “What we’re seeing is a lot of skinny pups which suggests they’re not getting sufficient nourishment, and dying of starvation basically.”

CAN YOU SAY, OVERFISHING? Blue Fin are being driven to extinction, the Japanese are killing whales by the hundreds (would be thousands if not for the amazing work of Sea Shepherd and other whale and dolphin protection groups), and we are finding that mercury levels in fish are rising. What is the problem? HUMANS.


Phyllis March 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Please – where can I send a donation to help pay for some of the expenses being incurred to save these precious creatures – I cant find any info as to where to do this – I live in Tx so it hard ofr course to render personal help –

respond to :
Phyllis Jacob

I will send out a crisis call to all I know here to contribute also –


Cheri Aspen April 21, 2013 at 5:47 pm

It is about balance of the ocean. Please put a call out to save the abalone, the sea star and fish, especially the endangered ones, like the state ocean fish the Garibaldi and the lobsters, the crabs, and the mussels. Who is putting a call out to balance the ocean? It is not about saving cute seals, it is about balance. It a selfish need and desire to rescue the seals, extremely selfish that will only prolong their agony. There are too many seals and sea lions, plain and simple. They have devoured all their food sources and caused an unbalance of the underwater environment. If these creatures were skunks or rats , God forbid we compare them , then there would be something done! When beautiful deer over populate, what is done? Hunting! I know , I know that sounds like I do not care for seals, so untrue, I am friends with them like probably none of you are. They come up and pet me! I swim with them. They love me. A mother brought her pup to my lap the other day. I do not approach them , they approach me. They are not truly wild anymore due to poor marine management, they have literally imprinted on humans for generations at many locations. And its a perfect example of how wonderfully humans and seals do get along! Never a bite report. But now they are starving to death. And they are my pals, and I do not like it. I am more a seal person than anyone who thinks that what is going on is Ok. It is not beneficial to the seals, the s.lions or any other the other marine creatures.
I challenge anyone who thinks otherwise.


Frank Gormlie April 22, 2013 at 11:06 am

We published this comment by Cheri Aspen to show the “other side” in this debate and controversy. I’m at the point where I personally have no more patience for the seal – haters. They are truly an embarrassment to the rest of us Southern Californians. Because of this, we’ve deleted several comments by this person who continues to rant at anyone who has sympathy for the seal lions and their pups.


OB Cindi March 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Sea World is helping some of the seal pups that are coming up on local beaches in San Diego dehydrated and starving to death. They are “for profit” and also receive govt funding for their marine mammal protection center. To help these seals, the best way is to donate to Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Seals that need long-term care end up “dumped” on this purely volunteer-run, not-for-profit center that REHABS the seals rather than forcing them into slavery doing shows for screaming toddlers at Sea World. Their website to donate is:

They are DESPERATELY in need of donations to keep their seal rehab center afloat. Although located in Huntington Beach in Orange County CA, they are taking animals from ALL OVER Southern CA including San Diego. Their center is full to bursting with seal pups who need help. For meds, food, building costs and other supplies, you can only imagine the hundreds of dollars it costs just to keep the doors open one more day. So the smallest donation is just as appreciated as a large donation. It is angels like you Phyllis Jacob who can help get some of these poor pups back on their feet and in the ocean where they belong. I give you a standing ovation for wanting to not just sit on a couch, but DO SOMETHING to help.


Li March 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Another rescue/rehab facility is located near San Pedro: The Marine Mammal Care Center ( I volunteer there, and just yesterday we received 20 seal lions and one elephant seal. The facility has received over 350 animals since January…nearly quadruple the normal intake number. The facility is open for visitors, and it is a nonprofit facility. Donations of Karo syrup, plain white paper towels, Dawn dish soap, bleach, and powder cleanser are always needed. Also, monetary donations are always needed so the facility can purchase needed supplies such as special tubing for feeding, along with veterinarian supplies. While it seems no one knows exactly why the mass strandings are occurring, knowing there are places like the Marine Mammal Care Center exists helps me believe we can help!


Karen March 30, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I live in Ohio, I would love to come and help feed the “pups”.
Is that possible?


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