It has long since been known that overfishing has a devastating impact on marine life and ecosystems, but the full extent of this problem became evident in 2015 when a record-breaking number of baby sea lions were orphaned by their mothers and stranded on the beaches of California.
Source: Michael Fiala/Reuters
However, the problem has not yet been resolved and still persists today. Sea lions feed on small fish, such as sardines and anchovies, which are being hunted on mass and are therefore rapidly decreasing in numbers.
This lack of food is having a huge knock-on effect on sea lion pups. When their mothers are unable to even feed themselves, they are unable to produce vital milk for their babies, who become malnourished.
Source: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times
Consequently, the mother’s survival instinct pushes them to abandon their offspring in the hopes of surviving themselves and then reproducing again later on in life.
In other cases, mother seals don’t abandon their pups, but go on such long hunting trips to try and find food that their pups venture out on their own to scavenge, which often results in their death.
This pup was skinny, too skinny—its ribs visibly protruding. Then it became apparent. The pup was starving.[…] The extent of the food shortage was undeniable upon seeing the suffering sea lion pup.
Source: Geoff Shester
While the number of starving seals on the beaches of California has declined since 2015, Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist at the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center, explains that this does not indicate good news, and is, in fact, the complete opposite.
Fewer seals are abandoned by their mothers because the seal population is decreasing. She explains:
It’s [the sea lion population] going to decline. We don’t know how much and we don’t know exactly when we’ll be seeing that signal, but it has to.
It is evident that something needs to change to save these wonderful creatures.
To help make a difference you can add your voice to the fight and help Oceana stop irresponsible fishing and help Sea Lions by clicking here.
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