Southern California Sea Lion Strandings Slowing Down

The causes of the "unusual mortality event" are still under investigation

By Hetty Chang
|  Thursday, Apr 18, 2013  |  Updated 8:31 AM PDT
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The number of sick sea lions washing up on local beaches has been baffling scientists the past few months. Recently, though, fewer pups have been needing rescue. Scientists say a change in ocean conditions may be the reason for the decrease. Hetty Chang reports from San Pedro for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on April 17, 2013.

Hetty Chang

The number of sick sea lions washing up on local beaches has been baffling scientists the past few months. Recently, though, fewer pups have been needing rescue. Scientists say a change in ocean conditions may be the reason for the decrease. Hetty Chang reports from San Pedro for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on April 17, 2013.

Photos and Videos

Sea Lion Pups Nursed Back to Health After Washing Up on SoCal Shores

Rescuers are working to nurse hundreds of sea lion pups back to good health after washing ashore local beaches. The hope is once the pups are healthy again and released, they won't end up stranded again. Some rescue centers though, are seeing repeat visitors. Hetty Chang reports from San Pedro for the NBC4 News on April 8, 2013.

Sick Sea Lions "Re-stranding" on SoCal Beaches

Sea lions mostly pups are making repeat visits to the Southern California coast, starving and hypothermic. Officials say it's still to early to assign any trends to "re-strandings," but marine mammal rescuers have become so overwhelmed by the influx in sick sea lions that a new shelter is being created in Calabasas to help rehab the animals. Hetty Chang reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on April 13, 2013.
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The epidemic that has so far caused 1,193 ailing sea lion pups to wash ashore in Southern California since January seems to be slowing down, according to marine mammal experts.

Sarah Wilkin, the California marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said on Wednesday that the change has occurred in recent days.

"For a couple of months, it was more like ten a day," said Wilkin. "Now we are down to three or four."
The epidemic, which caused NOAA to declare an "unusual mortality event" earlier this month, has baffled scientists.

Now, it appears they've ruled out the possibility that overfishing is depleting the ocean food source, as some have suggested.

"Right now our data does not suggest that any of the stocks off California are overfished," Wilkin said.

Marine biologists are focusing their investigation on environmental factors, such as algae growth, wind pattern changes and sea surface temperature changes, which led to a similar sea lion epidemic during El Niño.

Scientists are also looking into "re-strandings," where the same rescued sea lions are washing ashore again.
 

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