Environment & Science

More sick sea lions treated for domoic acid poisoning

A baby sea lion on San Miguel Island on June 7, 2014.
A baby sea lion on San Miguel Island on June 7, 2014.
Woody Williams via Linc Spaulding/Flickr Creative Commons

Marine experts in the San Francisco Bay Area say an alarming number of sea lions are being treated for poisoning linked to toxic algae blooms.

The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito says it has treated 68 sea lions suffering from domoic acid poisoning, compared with 70 in all of 2016.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says the number "is more pronounced than we've seen in the past few years."

Most of the animals are being rescued from the Central Coast and brought to the center, but experts said domoic acid levels are rising and creeping further up the coast.

The problem has also hit Southern California. Earlier this year, several adult sea lions, some of them pregnant or recently pregnant, were treated for suspected domoic acid poisoning.

"Most of them don’t survive," Lindsey Vanschoick of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, told KPCC.

The sea lions are exposed to the toxins when they eat surface fish such as sardines and anchovies that consume the algae.