Contact:  Heather Back, San Diego Foundation  619-235-2300

Steve Walker, National Marine Mammal Foundation  619-251-0518

Baby Sea Lion Stranding Crisis Worsens, Local Groups Join Forces to Respond

Matching Grant from Waitt Foundation Issued to Provide
Emergency Care and Support

SAN DIEGO -- The National Marine Mammal Foundation today announced that the Waitt Foundation, in partnership with the San Diego Foundation, has issued a challenge grant to fund an emergency response to the increasing number of sick and starving sea lion pups stranding in record numbers along the southern California coast.  Every dollar contributed by the public will be matched one-to-one by the Waitt Foundation up to $25,000 with the goal of raising $50,000 to be dedicated to the direct and urgent care of stranded sea lion pups.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) took the extraordinary step of declaring an Unusual Mortality Event for California sea lions.  Since the first of the year, more than 1,000 California sea lion pups have beached themselves from San Diego up the coast to Santa Barbara.  More sea lion pups have stranded in the past three months than are typically seen in an entire year and the numbers continue to rise by the day.  The pups are too weak and thin to forage for food-- without human care, they won't survive.  The increase in sea lions washing up on local beaches intensified over the Easter weekend and scientists have expressed serious concern as the traditional peak stranding season is just beginning.

"We're working quickly with our partners to help respond to this crisis.  The National Marine Mammal Foundation's primary focus is to help save the lives of these malnourished sea lions and this matching grant and the public's involvement will make a real difference," said NMMF Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Smith.  NMMF staff are joining forces with the Marine Mammal Care Center and other stranding network providers to respond to the crisis.  They will continue providing medical exams, treatment, and nutritional support to help rehabilitate the young pups.

""The fate of these pups is our immediate priority, and we hope the public will join us in providing for their rescue and rehabilitation, " said Jacob James, Managing Director of the Waitt Foundation.  "While the exact cause of the strandings continues to be researched, the alarming number of sick sea lions should be a wake up call to policy makers and the public at large -- this is yet another symptom of the little discussed ocean health crisis."

Initial research into the strandings points to a decrease in fisheries that provide food for the sea lions.  "These strandings are accompanied by observations of underweight pups on the breeding rookeries, signs that typically occur in association with food shortage," said U.S. National Marine Mammal Commissioner and NMMF Scientific Advisory Board Member Dr. Frances Gulland.

Donations to the San Diego Foundation can be made here and will go directly to fund sea lion care and medical support.  (Be sure to click the National Marine Mammal Foundation Emergency Fund bubble on the donation form.)  Donations can also be made to the National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) directly by clicking  here.
To report a stranded seal or sea lion, please contac
t your local stranding network or local authorities.

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The National Marine Mammal Foundation, a non-profit organization, has a mission to improve and protect life for all marine mammals, humans and our shared oceans through science, service and education.  From sea lions on the California coast to bearded seals in the barrows of Alaska, NMMF's experienced team of veterinarians are applying their medical expertise to pinniped care in the U.S. and abroad.

The Waitt Foundation, established by Gateway, Inc. co-founder Ted Waitt, supports a variety of national and international programs concentrating ocean health. By increasing global awareness, working towards sustainable fishing systems, and creating critical habitat protection, the Foundation’s goal is to reverse the current decline of ocean life while inspiring humanity to make informed choices that contribute to a healthy marine ecosystem.

Founded in 1975, The San Diego Foundation is a broad-purpose community foundation helping individuals, families and organizations carry out their charitable plans, with the common goal of improving the quality of life in the greater San Diego region, now and for generations to come. For additional information, please visit the San Diego Foundation at