Food changes drive California’s record sea lion pup strandings

March 3, 2016
Sea lion pup under normal weight - Feb 2015

New NOAA Fisheries research links three years of record sea lion pup strandings to sharp drops in high-calorie sardine and anchovy populations. Mother sea lions typically rely on those fish to feed their young.

Now, those mothers are chasing less-nutritious squid and rockfish instead, making it harder to provide pups with the fat and calories vital for healthy growth.

Scientists also say increasing pup numbers add to the issue.

This is the first analysis linking long-term decline in sea lion prey species with increased pup strandings.