Dr. Dennis Wood and NOAA Western Regional Stranding Network Coordinator Justin Viezbicke, along with NOAA Law Enforcement officers out of Eureka, have been fielding a lot of calls from distressed members of the public lately. Several California Sea Lions have been observed in the Crescent City Harbor sporting small to very large bite marks consistent with shark bites. One of the three CSLs initially reported to Ralph Colliers “Shark Research Committee” webpage last week was found with a mortal wound, the other two have apparently survived. Yesterday the NOAA officer from Eureka was able to photograph the CSL with the largest wound actively swimming in the Crescent City harbor waters between floating docks set up for them by Harbormaster Charlie Helms. NOAA, the agency in charge of all marine mammals, per The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, stated that they have seen many animals who, in the course of their natural lives in the oceans, have become the targets of predators and afterwards have survived to live many productive years beyond the initial wounding. NOAA told us that some CSLs recovered from wounds that took an entire fin or even (phenomenally) a complete tail section. Our Crescent City CSLs are suffering from bites involving blubber and flesh, but no mortal injuries. While in may be uncomfortable for the public to view these animals as they recover on their own in the wild from natural causes on introspection it may give us more cause to respect the powers of healing generated by individual animals in our natural world.
The CSLs with shark bites are not candidates for rehab at the center. They are too large and NOAA guidelines preclude our becoming involved. If you have further questions regarding this case please contact NOAA’s Justin Viezbicke at 1-562-506-4315. He is the West Coast NOAA spokesman and will happily talk to you about any concerns you might have about these CSLs.