SAUSALITO, Calif. (KGO) -- The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito is celebrating its 40th anniversary. It's been 40 years of rescuing animals in distress with a mission to return them to the water. The center has helped some 20,000 animals since it opened in 1975. But they tell ABC7 News that this year may provide the biggest challenge yet.
It neither looks nor sounds like the Cold War missile defense base that it used to be. But in the Marin Headlands, they know the mission has changed.
"It's missile to marine mammals," said one official with the group.
Forty years of it now. Hence Thursday's anniversary celebration at the Marine Mammal Center where the work never stops for staff or volunteers.
It is an absence of fish offshore that has contributed to a large workload, due to an unusual influx of starving young sea lions.
Among them is an underweight yearling, now named Persevero, who became a bit of a symbol for the problem last February when a ranger found him under a car far from the ocean in San Francisco.
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At last tally, roughly 700 sea lions like Persevero were brought in this year. That is six times the average for this season. The problem appears to be climate related.
"The ocean temperatures are the highest they have ever been recorded off California here, so that is making all the fish move farther away and move farther away north to the colder areas," said Shawn Johnson with the Marine Mammal Center.
And causing mothers to give up on feeding their young.
"These sea lions are giving us a warning signal," Johnson said. "The ocean is not healthy."
But the work continues with one small victory at a time with Persevero among them. He is due for release next week.
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