Environment & Science

Record number of stranded seal pups in Northern California

Malnourished sea lion pups recover at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur on April 9, 2013 in San Pedro, California. Sickly emaciated sea lion pups have been turning up on California's coastline in unusually high numbers since January - with live strandings nearly three times higher than the historical average.
Malnourished sea lion pups recover at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur on April 9, 2013 in San Pedro, California. Sickly emaciated sea lion pups have been turning up on California's coastline in unusually high numbers since January - with live strandings nearly three times higher than the historical average.
JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

Marine mammal experts say another species of marine wildlife has begun turning up, emaciated and weak, in record numbers on the California coast in what has been a series of alarming signs of oceanic distress.

Unhealthy northern fur seal pups have been found stranded on beaches in record numbers, newly weaned and weighing little more than the typical birth weight for the species, experts at the Marine Mammal Center near Sausalito said.

"They're adorable, but on the other hand they're these little bags of skin and bones," said Jeff Boehm, the center's executive director.

As of Friday, the Marine Mammal Center near Sausalito had taken in 85 northern fur seals, which live out in the Pacific Ocean's waters and islands and would only rarely be found on shore, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported Saturday.

According to the center, that number is more than double the previous record of 31 pups in 2006. Veterinarians estimate they are between 4 and 5 months old.

The stranded northern fur seals are the latest in a string of alarming marine events. Experts have been working all year to address an "unusual mortality event" among California sea lions. In addition, wildlife rescue crews have been trying to rehabilitate a record number of the rarely seen and endangered Guadalupe fur seal pups, also showing up stranded.