April 20, 2017 — During an average year, rescue workers at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach may encounter one pregnant sea lion suffering from domoic acid poisoning — a potentially deadly illness that occurs when the animals eat fish that have been feeding on toxic algae.
In the last two weeks however, the center has recorded 14 sea lion deaths due to domoic acid poisoning.
“Other rescue facilities are also seeing the same animals,” center spokeswoman Krysta Higuchi said. They’re “all over the place.”
In 2007, the last time the problem was this severe in Southern California, 79 sea lions died from domoic acid poisoning despite efforts by the center to rescue them, Higuchi said.
State officials have issued warnings against eating mussels, clams or whole scallops harvested recreationally in Santa Barbara County.