The Coast News Group
SeaWorld rescue teams have been busy responding to calls of stranded sea lion pups and other marine animals over the last several weeks. Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld® San Diego
SeaWorld rescue teams have been busy responding to calls of stranded sea lion pups and other marine animals over the last several weeks. Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld® San Diego

SeaWorld crews busy with marine mammal rescue calls last weekend

Numbers of rescues lower than that of last year though

REGION — The two trucks SeaWorld’s animal rescue response teams use to respond to calls involving stranded marine animals were busy all of last weekend.

Crews were working to respond to the numerous calls coming in from people reporting stranded sea lion pups along the county’s beaches.

Yet some residents that had spotted a stranded sea lion pup on one of Carlsbad’s beaches last weekend said they were waiting for hours for any rescue teams to show up.

“The goal is to try and respond as quickly as we can,” said David Koontz, communications director for SeaWorld. “However we are in our busy season. In fact, we now have rescued over 50 animals so far just in the last several weeks,” he said.

The majority of those rescues have been of California sea lion pups.

“These are animals that have weaned from their mothers recently and in some cases the animals just have not either figured out how to survive on their own or they just haven’t developed the experience or the skills to do it,” Koontz said.

SeaWorld is the only authorized organization to respond to marine mammal rescue calls in the county.

Organizations that would become eligible to help rescue stranded marine mammals have to apply with the National Marine Fishery Service, said Justin Viezbicke, California stranding coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries.

SeaWorld, he said, was the only one to apply with them, and was an organization big enough that they’re able to handle most of the responses.

While response times to calls of this nature are situational based, if someone spots a marine mammal that appears to be stranded, the best thing people can do is call SeaWorld or the Fishery Service to keep them informed, Viezbicke said.

“A lot of times there’s animals on the beach that we just can’t get to because we have other situations going on, and with limited resources there’s only so much that we can do,” he said. “So we would encourage people to let us know about it and then trust that we’re going to be out there checking on the animal.”

He added that not every call the rescue teams respond to results in the animal being taken away, because it turns out the animal is fine.

The best number to call to report any marine mammal strandings in California is (562) 506-4315, Viezbicke said. That number reaches Viezbicke and he then contacts the stranding coordinator in the appropriate area.

San Diego’s SeaWorld animal rescue hotline number is (800) 541-7325.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act, which was established in 1972, states that it’s illegal for unauthorized persons to harass, handle or feed marine mammals.

Viezbicke said compared to last year, the number of animal rescues is on the decrease. “We had a pretty big year last year, but this year, I think we’re down to our standard levels of strandings,” he said.

Koontz explained that SeaWorld rescued more than 400 sea lions last year.

In the next month or two, Viezbicke said there may be some information given as to what caused the high number of seal pup strandings last year, though at this point, he added there was no real smoking gun.

What to do if a stranded sea lion is spotted:

Who to Call:

SeaWorld Animal  Rescue: (800) 541-7325

National Marine Fishery Service:  (562) 506-7325

Information to report:

Species or description of the animal


Approximate size and weight of animal

Condition of the animal

Evidence of human interaction

Tags or branding on animal

For safety:

Stay 100 yards/meters away

Keep dogs away at all times

Do not disturb, move, touch, or feed a marine mammal