Dozens of Central Coast sea lions contract Domoic acid poisoning

sea lions


Dozens of sea lions have become sick in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties after exposure to Domoic acid. [KSBY]

From Aug. 15 through Aug. 25, there have been 61 cases of Domoic acid toxicosis in the two counties, according to The Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute. The condition stems from harmful algae blooms, sometimes referred to as “red tides.”

Increased runoff and elevated water temperature have created a breeding ground for the algae to grow, and there have been bigger blooms as a result. Domoic acid comes from blue or green algae and enters marine mammals through the fish they eat. 

The poisoning can cause disorientation, erratic behavior, head weaving and can lead to seizures. When detected early, workers can flush out the toxins. If the exposure to the toxin is irreversible, it can damage a sea lion’s brain. 

Aliah Meza, the operations manager for The Marine Mammal Center, is currently recommending that members of the public stay at least 150 feet away sea lions. Humans being present can create additional stress for already disoriented sea lions.

Anyone who sees a sea lion that may be in distress can call The Marine Mammal Center’s 24-hour hotline at (415) 289-7325.