County officials are urging the public to stay away from sea lions and use caution in consuming seafood as large algae blooms continue to proliferate off the California coast.
More than 100 sea lions likely to be suffering from domoic acid toxicity from algae blooms have stranded themselves on Los Angeles County beaches.
“Although you may want to help, the best and safest way to assist is to stay away and report the sick animal immediately,” said Marcia Mayeda, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control.
Beachgoers should give sick sea lions at least 50 feet of space and immediately call the Marine Mammal Care Center at 800-39-WHALE (800-399-4253), officials said.
Sick sea lions may become agitated and aggressive, and contact with humans can result in injury to the person and severe stress and anxiety for the sea lion.
Marine mammal rescue organizations have been swamped with reports of sick and dead sea lions and dolphins along the Southern California coast this month.
Hundreds of sea lions are believed to have died in the first weeks of June, according to a statement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, known as NOAA Fisheries.
The number of dead dolphins has reached about 100, according to Michelle Berman Kowalewski, founder and director of the Channel Islands Cetacean Research Unit, a Santa Barbara-based biosurveillance organization.
The number of sick sea lions has overwhelmed local marine rescue facilities like the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro. The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors is working with the nonprofit center to establish a temporary care facility just north of Marina del Rey.
“We hope that beachgoers will give the rescuers and their patients plenty of room, even when the beach is crowded,” Beaches and Harbors Director Gary Jones said in a statement.
Large algae blooms off the California coast are endangering marine mammals and making some seafood unsafe to eat, according to several Los Angeles County departments.
Consuming domoic acid in high doses can cause illness, even death, to humans, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The public can access state health advisories about shellfish here.
Currently, the state has issued an advisory warning residents not to eat sport-harvested mussels, clams or scallops from Santa Barbara County.
Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning, also known as amnesic shellfish poisoning, can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood, according to the California Department of Public Health.
In mild cases, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. These symptoms disappear within several days. In severe cases, the victim may experience trouble breathing, confusion, disorientation, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory, coma or death.