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A rescued California sea lion pup looks up from her holding pen at Sea World San Diego

Pup Rescue: Sea Lion Strandings on the Rise in California Sea lions are an institution in California. Tourists delight in their antics at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, hikers are rewarded with views of thousands of them in the wild at the National Park Service’s Channel Islands, and every spring good Samaritans call to report stranded sea lions in need of rescue. But this year, those calls are coming earlier and more rapidly. Only five weeks into 2015, more than 350 sea lions have been rescued. Marine biologists are worried that this year’s rescues could be on pace to match and maybe even exceed those 2013 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME). More than 1,300 sea lions were rescued between January and May that year — five times the average rate. “During that year, we had rescued 19 California sea lions in January,” Sea World San Diego Senior Veterinarian Hendrick Nollens told NBC News. “This year we already rescued 87 pups in that same month. So this event seems to be much larger.”

Sea lion flash mobs prey on fishermen’s catch (with video)  FEBRUARY 10, 2015 Veteran commercial fisherman Derek Morton describes it as an oceanic “flash mob,” a sudden swarm of California sea lions that descends upon commercial seine boats as they haul in their herring catch in the Strait of Georgia. “That’s what it’s like. They show up fast, they’re there, and when it’s done, they’re gone.” What makes the experience so extraordinary is the fact the sea lions have learned to slip in and out of the seine nets to exploit the herring catch at will. “I think it’s in their genes now,” says Morton, who has fished various stocks on the B.C. coast for four decades. “They just hop over the cork line. They’ve got it down pretty good. Hundreds and hundreds of them.

The Marin County Marine Mammal Center has been receiving about ten additional sea lion pups per day. At that rate, the treatment center will be full in just a few weeks. Don Ford reports. (2/4/15) (CBS 5 Screen Capture)

A rescued California sea lion pup looks up from her holding pen at Sea World San Diego in San Diego, California January 28, 2015. Over 50 malnourished sea lion pups have had to be rescued along the coast in San Diego since the beginning of the year. REUTERS/Mike Blake  (UNITED STATES – Tags: ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS SOCIETY)

A rescued California sea lion pup eats a fish during feeding time at Sea World San Diego in San Diego, California January 28, 2015. Over 50 malnourished sea lion pups have had to be rescued along the cost in San Diego since the beginning of the year.  REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS SOCIETY)

A rescued California sea lion pup enjoys a fish during feeding time at Sea World San Diego in San Diego, California January 28, 2015. Over 50 malnourished sea lion pups have had to be rescued along the cost in San Diego since the beginning of the year. REUTERS/Mike Blake  (UNITED STATES – Tags: ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS SOCIETY)

A rescued California sea lion pup eats a fish during feeding time at Sea World San Diego

A rescued California sea lion pup enjoys a fish during feeding time at Sea World San Diego