California's Sea Lions Making A Tremendous Comeback

California's Sea Lions

For residents of the California coastline, sea lions are a ubiquitous sight. San Francisco Bay’s Pier 39 is famous for the sea lions that like to bath on its docks. Unfortunately, this was not always the case. A new study in the January issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management has found that their numbers have tripled since the seventies. According to researchers, in 1975 the population of sea lions had dropped to just shy of 89,000. In 2014, the study found their numbers reaching over 257,000.

The resurgence of the sea lion population is a win for conservationists. As NBC San Diego reports, their success can be attributed to several factors. The infamous pesticide DDT frequently caused reproductive failure in female sea lions. After its ban in 1972, they were able to give birth to more pups. The Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed that same year, banning the hunting of most marine mammals, including the sea lion. Similar conservation efforts also boosted fish populations, providing the now growing number of sea lions with an ample source of food.

However, the good news does not come without any consequences. Another article by NBC Los Angeles suggests that the sea lions could be hurting fishing in the area. They interviewed one of the local anglers, who warned that the sea lions are damaging the ecosystem by overeating fish from the bottom of the food chain. The animals are also prone to attacking humans who swim too close to them, often leaving them with nasty bites. In December, the Golden Gate National Park Service had to close San Francisco’s Aquatic park after two people were attacked over the course of only two days. Both times the victim had to be taken to a hospital in order to deal with the injuries.

NBC San Diego interviewed Jody Westberg, a member of the SeaWorld Rescue Team who simply warned people to keep their distance from the animals. The rescue team does a lot of work with sea lions. Over the course of 2017, they helped over 1,000 marine animals and out of those, 150 were sea lions. They typically have to help sea lions who have been bitten by sharks or who are suffering from malnutrition.