Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sea Lions of Fisherman's Wharf Mysteriously Disappear

It's a Christmas mystery. Not quite a 'who dunnit' but more 'Where in the world are the sea lions of Fisherman's Wharf?'

From an over-populated growth of more than 1,500 animals in September, the colony has almost vanished.

Latest pictures from Pier 39 taken at midday today shows the floats empty except for one.

Below, are the crowded pontoons in October when six new floats, originally intended as replacements were instead added, raising the number of floats to approximately 40.

On Christmas Day, there was one lone sea lion in the far corner of the pontoons, and one 'family' - pictured - sitting on a jetty on the side.

Sheila Chandor, Harbormaster at Pier 39, said that while there is an element of speculation in the sudden disappearance, she thinks it is linked to the food supply.

"I think the herd had a good feeding source here throughout the summer and have left to follow a food source further south. An indicator is that we only have two herring boats in the bay currently,' she said, and those, she thought, were there to monitor spawn. Herring season had been cancelled this year due to a low herring count, she said.

However, she is confident that the sea lions have not bade permanent farewell to San Francisco.

'This is a long established haul out site so I do not doubt that they will return.This is an unusual event in that we normally have our largest numbers in the fall/winter and smallest in the summer breeding season,' she said.

The sea lions started to congregate in K-dock in January 1990, just months after the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. They proved such an attraction they brought prosperity to Pier 39 at a time when the rest of the city was financially depleted, and have continued to entertain millions of tourists ever since.

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