The National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) has announced that the San Diego-based Waitt Foundation issued a challenge grant to fund an emergency response to the increasing number of sick and starving sea lion pups stranding in record numbers along the southern California coast. Every dollar contributed by the public will be matched one-to-one by the Waitt Foundation up to $25,000 with the goal of raising $50,000 to be dedicated to the direct and urgent care of stranded sea lion pups.
Donations can be made at www.NMMF.org/sealioncrisis2015 NOAA recently requested the National Marine Mammal Foundation's assistance for this federally declared marine mammal Unusual Mortality Event (UME). The NMMF is deploying animal care teams to stranding centers in Southern California as well as coordinating personnel assignments to those facilities.
"Our primary focus is to help provide critical care to malnourished sea lions and improve their chance of survival, as dramatic changes are occurring in the oceans. This generous matching grant combined with the public's support will make a real difference," said NMMF executive director Dr. Cynthia Smith. NMMF staff are joining forces with the Marine Mammal Care Center, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center and other stranding network providers to respond to the crisis. The National Marine Mammal Foundation is helping to provide medical treatment and nutritional support.
Researchers are considering a number of possible causes, including warmer waters and a decline in nutrient-rich fish stocks off the California coast. Sardines in particular - which are a good source of food for growing pups - have declined by 72 percent since 2006.
“While this entire generation of pups and the related Southern California ecosystem are our immediate priority, " said Ted Waitt, founder and board chairman of the Waitt Foundation, "this vast number of sick sea lions should serve as a wake up call — overfishing has wreaked havoc on our oceans and we must seek sustainable solutions. We hope the public will join us not only in matching this grant today, but also in learning about the ongoing sharp decline in ocean health and taking action into the future."