Dozens of sea lions return to Pier 39

February 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Marine experts say it sure seems as though the famed sea lions of Fisherman's Wharf are returning to Pier 39.

The docks at Pier 39 are home to sea lions once again. This could mean a big return.

"I'm thinking this may be possible because the number has been growing steadily over the last few weeks. We've gone from 15 to 20 right after Thanksgiving and now today was the highest and it's 63," Pier 39 Harbor Master Sheila Chandor said.

Still a far cry from the heyday when there were 1,700 sea lions and then they took off last November, apparently heading to Oregon.

At sea lion caves near the town of Florence, owner Steve Saubert told ABC7 about 4,000 California sea lions showed up. He says most have left and they may be headed back to the familiar Pier 39.

"It gives them a place to rest of course; they are food sourcing there in the bay, and the biggest predator which are sharks are nowhere to be seen at Pier 39 and so it's like a rest haven for these animals," Jim Oswald from the Marine Mammal Center said.

The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito treats injured sea lions in their newly expanded hospital.

Oswald says there are 200,000 of them in the Pacific. They go wherever the food is.

"This is usually when we have a big herring run in the bay and I've been told the herring run is much, much lower and that may explain why they forage for other kinds of fish," Chandor said.

These docks may be tourist attractions again.

"This isn't something we ever see on the East Coast, so this was definitely a part our must to-do list," Ross Berkoff from Virginia said.

There was supposed to be a 20th anniversary party on Jan. 15, but none of the participants showed up. A Pier 39 spokeswoman says that when 250 of them show up, the party will go on as planned.