The carcass of what is believed to be a California sea lion was found washed up on the beach between Nantasket and Nahant courts on Sunday morning, February 21. Several calls were placed to local agencies to assist in the deceased mammal's removal.
The cause of the seal's death was unknown; there were no visible wounds. There were markings around the mammal’s neck as though it may have been previously ensnared in rope.
Identifying the mammal as either a sea lion or harbor seal was a challenge for onlookers. Both sea lions and harbor seals have flippers at the ends of their limbs, so the easiest way to differentiate the two is by looking at their ears. Sea lions are known for having small earflaps on each side of their head, whereas seals have a tiny opening for their ears.
Historically and until recently, sea lions were hunted for their skin and oil. Many populations of sea lions have been obliterated as a result of this hunting. Other sea lion populations have been wiped out as a result of being shot by fishermen who blame the mammals for damaging their nets.
Some possible causes of marine mammal mortality in San Diego and elsewhere include: toxic material accumulated in their tissues, ecosystem changes such as algal bloom, the introduction of new diseases, indirect effects of climate change, and entanglement in plastic trash.