El Niño could worsen conditions for California's starving sea lions

Dec 10, 2015

Climate data released Thursday shows this winter's El Niño is still on track to be among the strongest ever recorded. 

While this may be good news for water supplies, some researchers say it could worsen conditions for the already suffering sea lions along the Central Coast.

Starving pups have been and still are showing up in record numbers, especially on Santa Barbara's Channel Islands.

Sharon Melin studies California sea lions for the National Marine Fisheries Service, part of NOAA. She says El Niño's warm waters will likely continue the starvation patterns brought on by the warm patch of water we've seen for a few years off the California coast, nicknamed the blob.

The fish species that sea lions feed on are somewhat colder water varieties that are just too hard to find currently.

Melin says sea lions are resilient and adaptive, so there is no immediate fear the populations will fall into a threatened or endangered category at this point.