Major Disease Strikes California Sea Lions


Photo via Smithsonian Magazine

Over the past month, California sea lions along the Pacific Coast have been struck by a major disease outbreak that is steadily killing the population.

Photo via Smithsonian Magazine

According to Shawn Johnson, director of Veterinary Science at the Marine Mammal Center, Leptospirosis outbreaks occur at a semi-regular cycle, however warmer waters and migrating fish are affecting how the disease strikes different marine populations.

Matthew Berger, from the Smithsonian, reported that the “Marine mammal center rescued 29 sea lions as of October 16 and have since then lost 10 due to Leptospirosis. While more than a dozen animals are still awaiting a diagnosis.”

The rescue team has currently seen 220 sea lions with the disease but expects that this level of an outbreak will surpass the 2004 record of 304 cases given that 70% have already died.

“There are still signs of hope,” says Johnson, “Sea lions are fairly mobile and resilient animals, so if the environmental changes are slow enough to adapt, they’ll be able to move and will probably move farther up the coast.”