Sea lions exposed to toxic algae washing onto local beaches

Sea lions exposed to toxic algae...

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Marine mammals poisoned by naturally produced toxic algae are washing up on California beaches including ones in Santa Barbara County. 

Volunteers from the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute have been getting swamped with calls regarding sick or dead sea lions since last Friday. 

Samuel Dover, the co-creator of CIMWI, tells Reporter Vicky Nguyen he and his wife are constantly picking up phone calls from concerned people and sending out volunteers to check out the animals. 

“Normally we see injured animals about 1 or 2, here or there. Not large numbers. Last Friday, we got over 100 calls per day about sea lions in distress," said Dover.

Dover suspects sea lions, other marine mammals, and wildlife are getting poisoned after eating fish that fed on algae contaminated by domoic acid. The poison travels up the food chain and can affect humans depending on how much fish they consume. 

Volunteers are setting perimeters around sick sea lions to give them space since they're suffering from brain damage. Dover says those animals are confused and disoriented. 

Here are some tips provided by CIMWI: 

  • Do not touch the sea lion.
  • Do not allow pets to approach the sea lion.
  • Observe the animal from a safe distance of at least 100 yards.
  • Contact facilities listed below.

Along Ventura or Santa Barbara County Beaches:

To report a bird in distress: Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network: 805-681-1080
To report a marine mammal in distress: Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife (CIMWI):  805-567-1505, http://www.CIMWI.org.

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