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Mystery surrounds marine mammal deaths in Morro Bay

Thursday, August 13, 2009
/ Source: KSBY-TV

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reported by: Stacy Daniel

At least half a dozen sea lions have turned up injured or dead in Morro Bay. Now, wildlife officials are concerned that what's happening is no accident.

Over the last two weeks, at least six sea lions have stranded themselves on the beach. Marine mammal experts say it appears the animals are all suffering from some sort of puncture wounds, which look like bullet wounds. An investigation has been launched.

Lisa Harper Henderson works at the Marine Mammal Center in Morro Bay. She said, "Some injuries some puncture wounds in the sides of the sea lions and basically we've seen multiple punctures in the same location on the animals. We do not have a definitive answer about what those wounds were caused from."

But it's enough to launch a full investigation into the matter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirms that an investigation is being conducted.

The administration is also issuing a reminder. NOAA says California sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and anyone found guilty of killing or injuring a marine mammal may be subject to a $100,000 fine and/or a year in jail.

There is another side to this story.

Marine Mammal experts say all the reports concerning injured sea lions came from people with untrained eyes.

Harper Henderson said, "What the public sees is they see a puncture wound and they jump to conclusions. There are various causes that can create the same kind of puncture wound, It can be a canine from another animal, it could be another implement - not necessarily from a bullet."

The bottom line is no one is sure about what's happening in the water in Morro Bay.

If you have any information about what's causing injuries to the sea lions in Morro Bay, please call (805) 771-8300 and tell officials what you know.

If you ever see a stranded marine mammal, call the Marine Mammal Center immediately at (805) 771-8300.