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Federal Officals Research Sea Lion Troubles

Federal officials are looking into the high number of sea lion strandings along the Southern California coast.

— The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined the current number of sea lion strandings warrants an investigation. The agency is calling the situation an unusual mortality event.

Photo by Kellan

Photo credit: Flickr

A sea lion pup lounges by the ocean.

Rescue workers have responded to nearly 900 strandings between Santa Barbara and Mexico since January and 200 of them happened along the San Diego coast. The number of strandings is five times normal.

Many of the troubled sea lions are young, malnourished and in places they shouldn't be. One wandered into a La Jolla hotel recently and was eventually rescued by SeaWorld San Diego personnel.

Stephanie Venn-Watson works at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego and she is part of the team looking into the problem. Researchers will examine both dead and surviving pups to see if they have anything in common.

"We'll continue to work down the typical causes known in the past, but again, really let the evidence that we find as the group's investigation continues, to drive our next step," Venn-Watson said.

Any number of things could be causing problems, said Venn-Watson, including infections, toxins or simply not enough food.

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