Rescuers attempting to help injured sea lions

January 3, 2010 2:06:32 PM PST
Marine mammal rescuers said they would try again Sunday to rescue two injured sea lions along the San Francisco waterfront. A volunteer planned to go out in a boat hoping to spot at least one of them.

On Saturday, volunteers tried track down a distressed sea lion that was first seen Friday night at Pier 39. Instead, they found a second sea lion caught in a bind at the Hyde Street Pier.

Their efforts to help the sea lions have been frustrating. Ivania Molina went to Pier 39 looking for the hurt sea lion.

"Because I grew up in San Francisco and they're a San Francisco institution, and so I had to come out and see if it was ok," she told ABC7.

Volunteers from the Marine Mammal Center spent the day looking for it and thought they had found it at the Hyde Street Pier. Four rescuers tried to get the animal into their nets but it swam away.

"It's hard because you've got the adrenaline going, you want to be able to help the animal and you know, at the end of the day it's up to the animal," Jim Oswald with the Marine Mammal Center told ABC7.

The sea lion had something wrapped around its neck, but it was not the original one they were looking for.

"So, it's pretty sad actually. So, this is yet another California sea lion with an entanglement," Oswald lamented.

The original sea lion is getting a lot of attention because it showed up in a very public place. It hopped up onto a dock at Pier 39 and then postured in such a way that everyone could see the fishing line wrapped around its neck and snout.

"Certainly the public has really taken an interest to this sea lion as we have as well," Oswald pointed out.

The sea lion was especially noticeable because the hundreds of sea lions who usually live at Pier 39 have mysteriously disappeared. Biologists cannot explain it. Visitors are very disappointed. Some stop by the pier just to confirm that they really are gone.

"As strange as it was to see them all gathered here, it's even more eerie to not to see any of them" Virgil Prewitt said. "It's kind of surreal that they're not here."

Officials at the Marine Mammal Center say a rescue attempt from a floating dock in the dark would have been too dangerous, so they had to wait until morning. By then, the sea lion was gone.

"Our best course of action and we want to be able to help this animal but do it in a safe manner," Oswald said.

Tourists at Pier 39 now have two things to look for, the injured sea lions and hundreds of missing sea lions. The story has gotten so much attention even the London Times has called Pier 39 for a comment.