Environment & Science

3 sea lions captured during Refugio oil spill released near San Diego

A sea lion getting ready to jump back into the ocean.
A sea lion getting ready to jump back into the ocean.
Refugio Response Joint Information Center
A sea lion getting ready to jump back into the ocean.
Refugio Response Joint Information Center
A sea lion getting ready to jump back into the ocean.
Refugio Response Joint Information Center


Three sea lions that were captured after the Refugio oil spill have been released into the ocean near San Diego. The Department of Fish and Wildlife released the animals Sunday.

The department rescued 62 animals after the oil spill in May. The spill, caused by a ruptured pipeline, killed some local marine life

Spokesperson Alexia Retallack said the animals were taken to SeaWorld, where they were cleaned and rehabilitated. Once in good condition, the animals were released into the ocean. 

An elephant seal was also released. Although the mammals were collected from the Santa Barbara coast, Retallack said that they were released off the coast near San Diego for safety reasons.

"Sea lions and elephant seals do move up and down the coast quite a bit, so being able to release them in San Diego meant that there was less stress and less difficulty or challenges for the wildlife," she said. 

Retallack said the animals were found in a number of conditions. "Some of them were lethargic, some of them were stranded on the shore," she said. 

One bird, other sea lions and elephant seals are still currently under the department's care, among other animals.

In rehabilitation, different animals go through different processes on their roads to recovery, Retallack said. All animals are given food and kept warm before cleaning and washing, which can be a stressful process. 

"The important thing when rehabilitating wildlife is doing best for the wildlife and making sure that we have them in the best condition we can possibly get them," she said. "So that when we release them in the wild, they have the best chances of living out a normal lifespan."