Marine mammal rescue is a problem

March 24, 2015

seal lions manyOPINION By STEVEN L. REBUCK

It should be apparent that the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA) is now causing significant harm to some species of marine mammals. The MMPA proposed to allow marine mammal populations to increase to their “maximum sustainable population” (MSP) while giving consideration to the overall health of the marine environment. Instead, MSP been interpreted to mean, “maximum population”, or, cram as many marine mammals as possible into limited habitat. This is the situation we now find ourselves.

Marine mammal rescue centers are reporting increased stranding of sick seals and sea lions statewide. Many of these are young, which appear to be starving. These centers take in sick animals, feed them and provide medicine. But, are they really helping individuals or population?

If left on the beach, these sick and dying might be seen. Citizens might draw the conclusion something is wrong. And, they would be right. By cleansing the beaches of sick animals, the evidence is removed from view.

In a 1991 report by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) “Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release of Marine Mammals; an Analysis of Current Views and Practices” it was reported:

“These are species (Elephant seals, harbor seals, and sea lions) that have large, stable and expanding populations that do not benefit from rehabilitation programs but for which the majority of effort and funding is expanded.”

These rescue operations have become big business, at least for those on the payroll. Most of these organizations could not function without all those nice folks who volunteer time and money to the effort. Releasing imprinted and/or genetically inferior animals creates more problems.

On land, we don’t allow animal populations to explode, from dogs and cats to deer and pigs. So why is the ocean different?

Clearly, these stranded animals are not successfully foraging for food.
Seals and sea lions are not the only marine mammals affected by food depletion. Sea otters in California are impacted to by their own depletion of their food items.

It takes considerable food for these animals to survive. Dr. Doyle Hannon, (California Department of Fish and Game, retired) in his Aug. 19, 2003 testimony before the House Resources Committee reported the average sea lion consumes 20 pounds of fish per day. NMFS estimates the population of California Sea Lions at 296,750 (other estimates range as high as 350,000). At 20 lbs. per day, this 5,935,000 lbs. per day or 2,166,275,000 lbs. per year!

In addition, these animals excrete their waste back into the near-shore environment. Some enclosed areas are now showing signs of hypoxia or a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water column.

To conclude: The MMPA allows marine mammals to die from starvation and disease. Seals and sea lions destroy public property. Fisheries and coastal economies are devastated. Other animal resources like salmon and abalone are depleted. This does not make economic sense nor is it humane.

Steve Rebuck of San Luis Obispo is a fisheries consultant who has appeared before the U.S. Congress four times (1984, 1985, 2001, 2003) on the sea otter in California, MMPA and Endangered Species Act.

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  1. longboredterrie says:

    Our Ocean is sick the number of dead and dying is growing why ?

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. saywhat says:

    “Steve Rebuck is a Fisheries Consultaant.” a hem,,,,Steve Rebuck is a fisherman.

    (-3) 7 Total Votes - 2 up - 5 down
  3. LAPS says:

    Wow , where do I start. First,with all due respect, Mr. Rebuck is quoting very dated material. The only statement I agree with is that” Clearly, these stranded animals are not successfully
    foraging for food.” It’s true , the pups aren’t able to forage for food. Many of them are still to
    young to fish and should still be nursing.
    Sea Lion pups generally stay with their “moms” for the first 9 months of age during which time
    they continue to nurse but also learn how to fish . We are seeing pups stranding that are up to 40% below normal weight.

    The pups are stranding due to lack of forage fish available for their mothers to catch and eat and be able to nurse their pups. The ocean temps are rising which is driving the forage fish
    out farther and diving deeper to cooler waters.The adult sea lions are having to leave their
    pups for longer periods of time and sometimes up abandoning them because there isn’t enough available fish in the area for them to eat. The pups that have learned how to fish are unable to dive deep enough in order to catch fish on their own .

    So if you want to know what the true cause of this catastrophic event going on along our coasts
    look in the mirror.

    These animals are one of the “canaries” in the coal mine, much like the
    starfish that have been dying off in enormous numbers and all of the dolphins that were dying
    along the Eastern seaboard in recent years. A warning that the ocean environment is out of

    Many of the reasons that these animals are picked up by rescue organizations is due to
    some type of human related cause. Entanglements, boat strikes , human and animal
    harassment, gunshot wounds. Actually very few are picked up due to non human related cases
    ex. shark bite.

    The idea of accusing the animals themselves for being the reason there is a lack of food for
    them is just plan silly. They are pescatarians, they do not over fish. They need fish to survive
    and thrive. Humans do not.

    (1) 13 Total Votes - 7 up - 6 down
  4. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    Classic case of thinking with one’s heart over one’s head. Yes no one wants to see a struggling young or sick sea lion but there is a REASON why they call it survival of the fittest. If you keep the strong lineage, the species will survive and THRIVE!! But no us STUPID humans get all involved with this crap of, oh the poor sea lion, we must do something. Yes we must. STAY OUT OF IT!!!!

    (10) 18 Total Votes - 14 up - 4 down
  5. Rambunctious says:

    It’s not nice to mess with mother nature…

    (13) 15 Total Votes - 14 up - 1 down

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