Dozens of sick sea lions exposed to domoic acid toxicosis have been reported in Ventura and Santa Barbara County.
This toxin isn’t anything new to the Central Coast.
The first case of domoic acid in California sea lions was first discovered by The Marine Mammal Center back in 1998.
From Aug. 15, 2022 the first day of the domoic acid event with California sea lions in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties through Aug. 25, 2022, The Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute stated via Instagram they have had 61 live cases.
The organization stated they are managing 100 calls a day and their team is "working overtime" to respond to the influx of cases.
“This toxin enters their system through bioaccumulation through the fish that they eat. It can cause real disorientation, erratic behavior, head weaving, and even lead to seizures," said Aliah Meza, operations manager at The Marine Mammal Center.
The naturally occurring toxin comes from blue/green algae.
While it’s been around for several years, why is there an increase in cases?
“Increase runoff, increase water temperature have kind of created a good breeding ground for these algae to grow so we have seen bigger blooms as a result of that," explained Meza.
While in San Luis Obispo County there are no cases reported with sea lions so far, these factors have come together perfectly in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
“It's sad. People like to see wildlife when you’re out especially when you come to places like Morro Bay," said Arroyo Grande resident, Gregory Saunders.
If caught early, experts said they can flush out toxins, but if there is chronic exposure to the toxin it is irreversible and can damage the seal’s brain.
The public can play in part in helping sea lions exhibiting these behaviors.
“Give it space stay at least 150 feet away, especially for these animals that are so disorientated additional stress of people surrounding can be really detrimental," stated Meza.
If you do see an animal who may look to be in distress, The Marine Mammal Center has a 24-hour hotline number (415) 289-SEAL (7325).