Sea lion population explosion crowding the northern California coast

By on Tue, August 4, 2009

San Francisco’s Seal Rocks are covered with an unusually large number of seals these days.  This El Niño year is kicking off with a surge in sea lion population that has resulted in the wave of dead sea lions we’re seeing on the Coastside, reports the Chron.

A bumper crop of 59,000 California sea lions born last year means more animals along the coast. And scientists say El Niño is sending warmer water to the California Current, the band of water that stretches from British Columbia to Baja California, bringing more sea lions to Central and Northern California. ...

The animals are moving farther north, perhaps following fish that are seeking colder water. On San Miguel Island in the Channel Islands, where they’re born, there has been a higher-than-normal mortality rate for pups and yearlings, she said.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists are still watching to see whether there will be a full-blown El Niño this year, bringing tropical rain to the western United States from October to July.

In the meantime, fishermen are catching sardines - the sea lions’ favorite food - as well as white sea bass and mackerel that have migrated in with the warmer water.