Sunday, December 5, 2010

⅏Did You Know - The Sea Lions of Pier 39?

 Did You Know the history of the Pier 39 Sea Lions originated with their unexpected appearance at the San Fransico docks back in 1989?   

Their original hangout was at Seal Rocks -  a rock formation island found offshore at the north end of the Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California, USA.

The Seal Rocks and Cliff House - (picture by Wikipedia, user-Mbz1)
Ever since September 1989 the number of sea lions on Seal Rock has been steadily decreasing, while their number on Pier 39 was increasing. Some people speculate that sea lions moved to docks because of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but the earthquake occurred months after the first sea lions had arrived at Pier 39. It's likely the sea lions feel safer inside the Bay.
Although the reason for their migration to the pier is unclear, the refurbishing of the docks in September 1989 required the removal of all boats from that area, leaving large open spaces for the sea lions to move into. Once the project was completed, boat owners returned, but did their best to navigate around the sea lions; no efforts were made to encourage the new guests to leave. By the end of that year, less than a dozen sea lions frequented the docks at Pier 39.

By January 1990, their numbers had increased to 150 animals. Owners of the 11 boats docked there began to complain about having to avoid the animals who can weigh up to half a ton, and odor and noise complaints began to pour in. Press releases caught national attention, and the sea lions began to attract tourists. Advice from The Marine Mammal Center was to abandon the docks to the animals, and to relocate the boats elsewhere.

Although fluctuations in the number of sea lions at Pier 39 are dramatic, as many as 1139 have been officially reported at one time, many of whom are recognizable to researchers and others, and some of whom have been unofficially named. Volunteers and staff at The Marine Mammal Store and Interpretive Center monitor the sea lion population each day, and educational information is provided to tourists who visit from around the world. Scientists continue to collect information there, adding to knowledge about sea lion health, dietary habits, and behavior

Their Unexplained Disappearance in Late 2009

Their Return!
Sea lion watchers all breathed a sigh of relief when the sea lions started trickling back in as early as of February 2010.  By around mid-May, more than 284 California sea lions had hauled up onto Pier 39, according to Sue Muzzin, Director of PR for Pier 39:

The barking is back - with a rollicking, fish-reeking, tourist-pleasing vengeance.
Three months after sea lions began trickling back to Pier 39, about 400 were cavorting on the docks Friday in time for a party celebrating the pinnipeds' 20th year of residence at the tourist mecca.

"I wouldn't have come to San Francisco if the sea lions weren't here," said Arlene Fiala, a retiree from Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., who visited Pier 39 Friday. "It'd be like going to New York City if Times Square closed down."

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