Beached Sea lions are turning up on California's central coast with domoic acid poisoning, an affliction associated with marine algae blooms. The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito has admitted 68 sea lions into its veterinary hospital since July 1st.
“That many animals in such a pretty short time period is a severe event,” says Cara Field, staff veterinarian at the Center.
Domoic acid is a neurotoxin, which is a byproduct of algae blooms that crop up in coastal marine waters throughout the year, especially during the summer months. The noxious compounds are eaten by anchovies and sardines which are then consumed by sea lions and other marine mammals.
The symptoms of poisoning are neurological, including tremors and convulsions, which can affect immediate survival or cause long-term brain damage.
“Generally sea lions spend a lot of time foraging for food and swimming around," Field explains. “If they accumulate this bio-toxin, they can have a seizure in the water, drown or be eaten. Often they end up on shore where they may have seizures on the beach.”