California State Senate Recognizes Tireless Work of Animal Rescue Groups & Declares Today “Marine Mammal Rescue Day”
Changing Ocean Conditions Have Led to Record Number of Sea Lions Emaciated on California Shores and Required Extensive Rescue and Rehabilitation Work from Organizations Across the State.
SACRAMENTO, April 27, 2017
Members of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network applauded State California State Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) who sponsored a resolution in the State Senate today proclaiming April 27 as “Marine Mammal Rescue Day.” The eight-member statewide Marine Mammal Stranding Network stretches from San Diego County to Del Norte County, covering the entire California coast.
“I am pleased to recognize today as Marine Mammal Rescue Day in honor of the important and tireless work of dozens of wildlife biologists, veterinarians and animal care specialists who rescue marine animals that wash ashore in distress, many near death. The last few years have been tough on California’s seal and sea lion populations. In 2015 and 2016, a record 6,000 stranded sea lions, harbor seals and elephant seals and other mammals washed up on California coasts. Because of the work of these eight animal rescue organizations, thousands of these animals were successfully rehabilitated and returned to the ocean for a second chance at life” said State Senator Toni Atkins (D – San Diego).
Researchers believe warming ocean waters likely brought on by climate change led to a decrease in sea lion food supply, resulting in mass strandings in 2015 and 2016.
“Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI) rescued seven times more than our normal average number of sea lions in the last two years, most of these have been malnourished, dehydrated, and immune compromised California sea lion pups associated with the Unusual Mortality Event (UME) that was declared in 2013. These animals needed our immediate intervention and veterinary medical care to survive. While this influx has been challenging for our all-volunteer nonprofit organization, we are proud of the work we do to rehabilitate and give these animals a second chance at life back in the wild. The work our Marine Mammal Stranding Network is doing is also the backbone of scientific studies that uncover the reasons for marine mammal strandings and promotes conservation and One Health,” said Dr. Samuel Dover, Executive Director and Chief Veterinarian, Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute in Santa Barbara.
The eight-member Marine Mammal Stranding Network covers all of California’s coastline: The Northcoast Marine Mammal Center in Crescent City, The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute in Santa Barbara, California Wildlife Center in Malibu, Marine Animal Rescue in Los Angeles, Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles in San Pedro, Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, and SeaWorld San Diego. These centers work around the clock with limited resources to rescue and rehabilitate stranded marine mammals, and conduct important conservation research.
BACKGROUND : In 2013, NOAA fisheries declared an unusual mortality event for California sea lions. A stunning 3,340 stranded sea lions were reported in 2015, more than 10 times the average number of sea lions that died along the coast the previous year. In 2015, the Legislature and the Governor approved $1 million (General Fund) to the Wildlife Health Center, University of California at Davis, to administer grants to local marine mammal stranding networks to help with the sea lion rescue effort. Last year Assemblymember Richard Bloom called a hearing to get an update on the sea lion crisis and to learn how these funds were utilized and what on-going needs exist.
Here’s what others are saying:
Eric Otjen, SeaWorld San Diego’s Assistant Curator for Animal Health and Rescue
“It’s been very busy the last three years for all members of the stranding network here in California. In 2015 and 2016 alone, SeaWorld’s rescue team came to the aid of nearly 1,500 marine mammals, more than three times our average. The goal of our rescue and rehabilitation program is to give these ill and injured animals a second chance at life and return them to the ocean. Our efforts are not only critical to conserving animals in the wild, but also help researchers and resource managers better understand the health of our ocean ecosystem.”
Michele Hunter, Director of Animal Care, Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach
“This state of crisis over the past few years was constant calls of emaciated, sick animals all along the California coast. We are proud how all the marine mammal stranding centers worked around the clock to give thousands of marine mammals a second chance at life. Everything in the ocean is tied together, and analyzing why these animals are stranding helps us answer the questions; what is going on in marine environments and what we can do to preserve it.”
Jeff Cozad, Executive Director of Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles in San Pedro
“Marine Mammal Rescue Day is an excellent opportunity to increase awareness that seals and sea lions are in need year-round all along the California coast. This Senate Resolution illustrates that there is a coordinated program to rescue and treat stranded seals and sea lions, and acts as an impetus for the public to seek out their closest marine mammal rehabilitation facility to volunteer their time and make a financial donation. Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles is proud to do its part to help these precious mammals, and is grateful to the California legislature for public recognition.”
Karen Helms, Volunteer at Northcoast Marine Mammal Center in Crescent City
“Over the past few years the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center rescued 228 animals in hopes of giving them a second chance at life, more than 2 times the average. We are proud of the work done by our rescue team and the other members of the Stranding Network to return many of these animals to the wild. The work being done by all members of the Stranding Network is contributing to a greater scientific understanding of the threats marine mammals face in the wild.”
Peter Wallerstein, Director of Marine Animal Rescue in Los Angeles
“In the past three years Marine Animal Rescue has rescued hundreds of seals and sea lions. The Unusual Mortality Event required extensive effort by our rescue team and the other Stranding Network members. Because of this work, many of these sea lions were returned to the wild and every day we gain a deeper understanding of the threats marine mammals face in the wild.”
Michael Remski, Marine Program Manager, California Wildlife Center in Malibu
“Since 2015 California Wildlife Center has responded to over 1000 marine mammals in hopes of giving them a second chance at life, a sharp increase in strandings from years prior. Because of the tireless work done by our rescue team and the other members of the Stranding Network, many of these animals were able to return to the wild, and their rescue and rehabilitation also contributed to a better understanding of the threats they face in the wild.”