Case Studies in Fisheries Conservation and Management: Applied Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Case 18: Sea Lions: a New Kind of Nuisance

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874189.ch18

Newport Beach, in southern California, is home to about 10,000 vessels, 1200 offshore moorings, and 1,200 residential and commercial piers. And now it is also a reluctant home to a group of California sea lions Zalophus californianus.

About 20 sea lions first arrived in Newport Beach in the spring of 2005 and broke into some fish rearing pens in the bay. The pens were a perfect haul-out location for the sea lions, which spend up to 7 hours per day out of the water to stay warm. While warming themselves on land (or, in this case, a dock), male sea lions make an amazing amount of noise as they battle for territory.

Newport area residents decided to dissuade the sea lions from making this their permanent home because of this initial property damage and the constant noise. Unfortunately, this task proved to be much more difficult than the town expected, and an epic struggle began between man and animal.

When the fish pens were repaired and the sea lions could no longer get in them, the sea lions started hauling out on vessels and docks. Male sea lions measure up to 8 feet long and can weigh more than 800 pounds; when a few of these behemoths lay on a boat or fight on a dock, damage is inevitable. The Newport sea lions damaged vessels, docks, and navigation aids and even sank a couple boats.