What in the world to do with California’s sea lion population?

Newport Beach considers altering municipal harbor codes to account for legal sea lion interactions.

NEWPORT BEACH—There’s nothing cuter than the friendly marina sea lion – at least that’s how it might appear from an outsider’s perspective. Sadly, cohabitating with sea lions has become one of the more difficult epidemics on California’s coastline. The Log has written on this subject fairly extensively, but it looks like Newport Beach (who in the past has grappled very publically with the sea lion problem) is aiming to do what they can to solve a difficult matter.

At a Newport Beach Harbor Commission meeting that took place on March 13, the commissioners hosted a panel of experts to learn more about sea lions. One of the most problematic issues – in Newport Beach and elsewhere – has been how to deter the species without causing them harm. Commissioners are contemplating adding provisions into the municipal harbor code about interactions with the pinnipeds.

An unnamed source at Dana Point has said there has been difficulty with wrangling the sea lions as well – but not just because of boaters. Tourists often times find the animals cute and like to feed them in the harbor. Feeding sea lions, just like killing them, is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

There are approximately 300,000 sea lions who call California home currently. Sea lions were listed as protected species where their numbers began dwindling in the past.

Justin Viezbicke, one of NOAA’s marine mammal stranding coordinators in California, stated that while one of the most obvious solutions would be “taking” the animals, meaning killing them, harming them or otherwise disturbing them, is the obvious solution since this would bring numbers down. However, he further stated, that would not be a “viable solution.”

While wild animals may appear friendly, it’s important to remember they are just that: wild animals. Due to federal protection, sea lions are best left observed from a distance. Even if one appears to be injured, NOAA advises notifying a hotline at 1-866-767-6114. Those who choose to ignore laws concerning sea lions – whether they are feeding them or hurting them –  cause a slew of problems  when the marine mammals become accustomed to living closer to people and damage property.

Have any boaters found a safe, NOAA-approved method to keep our sea lion friends at a safe distance? What kind of solutions seem more viable to keep the sea lions safe in their ocean home, but also at arm’s length from boaters that share their waters? Share your comments online at thelog.com or send an email to editor@thelog.com.

To learn more about legal sea lion deterrents, visit noaa.gov.

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One thought on “What in the world to do with California’s sea lion population?

  • Bill Hokstad

    Sea Lions have become a nuisance. The obvious and sensible solution is reducing their population. They eat 75 lbs of fish a day from our local waters. Calif formed Marine Protected Areas to keep man out to preserve the fish populations. Fishermen do not harvest 22,500,000 pounds of fish a day from local CA waters. The biggest threat to fish populations in local waters is the CA Sea Lion. with their veracious appetites.



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