News: California Sea Lion Pup Deaths
Marine biologists are at a loss as to why an unprecedented number of sea lion pups are turning up near death along Southern California’s coastline.
Since the beginning of the year, some 1,400 young California sea lions were admitted to rehabilitation centers across the state. That figure is five times the normal rate of beached pups for this time of year.
Wilkin said, “The major common factor for all these stranded pups is that they’re coming in emaciated, dehydrated, basically starving. They have been unable to find enough food to sustain themselves. The pups can’t dive as deep. They can’t travel as far so they might be more impacted in even just a slight change in the distribution of prey.”
NOAA is working with fishery scientists and oceanographers to pinpoint the exact cause. Besides food shortages, they are exploring other theories including exposure to biotoxins, disease and human pollutants. They are even looking into possible radiation contamination from Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown.
Early findings indicate that the year has been relatively neutral in regards to ocean conditions, including temperature, according to Wilkin. So far, the California seal lion pup is the only marine mammal being affected in such a way.
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