2015–2019 Guadalupe Fur Seal Unusual Mortality Event in California, Oregon and Washington
Increased strandings of Guadalupe fur seals have occurred along the entire coast of California, beginning in January 2015 at eight times higher than the historical average. Strandings have continued since 2015 at well above average rates in California. Additionally, Guadalupe fur seal strandings in Oregon and Washington became elevated in 2019 and strandings for these two states have been added to the UME starting from July 1, 2019 to present.
Increased strandings of Guadalupe fur seals have occurred along the entire coast of California. Guadalupe fur seal strandings began in January 2015 and were eight times higher than the historical average. Strandings have continued since 2015 and have remained well above average through 2019. Strandings are seasonal and generally peak in April through June of each year. Strandings in Oregon and Washington became elevated starting in 2019 and have continued to present. Strandings in these two states in 2019 are five times higher than the historical average.
This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event.
Causes of the Guadalupe Fur Seal UME
Guadalupe fur seals are stranding alive and dead. Those stranding are mostly weaned pups and juveniles (1–2 years old). The majority of stranded animals showed signs of malnutrition with secondary bacterial and parasitic infections.
All live stranded Guadalupe fur seals are being rescued by local marine mammal stranding network members and undergoing long-term rehabilitation at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, or SeaWorld in San Diego, California.
As part of the UME investigation process, NOAA assembled an independent team of scientists to coordinate with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to review data, sample stranded Guadalupe fur seals, and determine the next steps for the investigation.
The most important step that the public can take to assist investigators is to immediately report strandings to the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Make a report by calling (866) 767-6114. Do no approach injured or dead animals.
Any stranded, injured, or entangled marine mammal (alive or dead) should be reported to the marine mammal stranding network. Numerous organizations around the country are trained and ready to respond.
Species Identification Tips
Fur seals and sea lions may be difficult to distinguish because they look similar. Learn how to tell the difference between the two:
|Guadalupe fur seal||thick, uniform dark brown to black fur||males can reach 7 ft and 400 - 490 lbs; females reach 5 ft and 100–120 lbs|
|California sea lion||juveniles and females are golden brown to blonde; adult males are dark brown to black||males can reach 7.5 ft and 700– 1000 lbs; females reach 6 ft and 240 lbs|