Starving sea lion pups are washing up on Southern California beaches at a rate more than five times higher than usual, and scientists are scrambling to figure out why.

Since the beginning of the year, 1,293 emaciated sea lions found stranded on beaches from San Diego to Santa Barbara have been treated at seven facilities in the state

Last month, the agency declared an “unusual mortality event” that allowed more scientists to help search for the cause. 

Currently there is no El Nino, the ocean-warming phenomenon that makes it harder for female sea lions to find food and often leaves them unable to provide milk to their pups, according to NOAA. Pups are born in May and June and depend on their mothers’ milk through the following April or May. NOAA said pups don’t usually leave their mothers as early as they did this year.

As many as 25 percent of the seals have died after being brought in for treatment. 

The surviving seals are slowly brought up to a normal body weight and monitored to make sure they can find prey on their own and compete with other animals in tanks.

The goal is to get them healthy enough to be released back into the wild. Such releases are happening daily at some facilities, Wilkins said.

At least two released seals outfitted with monitoring tags have been tracked diving and foraging normally in their regular habitat.

Three animals that were released washed up on beaches again and have since been deemed non-releasable. Officials are trying to find homes for them at aquariums or zoos.

We have asked several individual who have been dealing with this issue and they have said that the ocean isn’t supplying enough food for everything any more. Our oceanic dead zones are growing larger every year and the oceans waters are heating up and acidifying all at the same time. Our planet hasn’t done this in over 3 to 5 millions year. 

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May 2013
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