Scientists say the sea lions reveal 'important things about what is going on in our oceans.' Food shortages and disease are being looked at as possible causes of the 'unusual mortality event' in California.
California’s sea lions, usually celebrated for their entertaining, prankster ways and doglike barks, are making very different headlines right now. Young pups are washing up dehydrated and dying, from Monterey to San Diego, in record numbers.
So far, more than 1,100 of these emaciated, underweight marine mammals have come ashore – more than ten times the normal rate for this time of year. As startled residents cope with these sickly animals on local beaches, overwhelming marine mammal rescue facilities, scientists are scrambling to decipher the mysterious message behind these strandings.
“We do not know the cause,” says Sharon Melin, a marine biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
NOAA has taken the extraordinary step of declaring an “unusual mortality event,” or UME, which brings with it additional funds for research as well as national collaboration between agencies.