Last year, thousands of sea lion pups washed up on California’s shores, starved to death. It continued into late last year as well. This year, that trend looks to be continuing on Southeast Farallon Island as the fetuses of California sea lions lie all over. The mothers, not healthy enough to give birth to their young in a few months, have miscarriages on land. Lack of food due to low productivity in local waters, probably aided by high ocean temperatures caused by this year’s El Niño, is the most likely culprit.
But El Niño looks to be ending and cooler ocean waters have been recorded lately around the Farallones. The gulls are also pooping pink from the krill they are eating, which is a good sign for the food web. Maybe the mothers who are still healthy and pregnant will be able to have better success weaning their pups later this summer.
photo: NOAA Fisheries West Coast