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The Sea Lion Story

The sea lions that camped out in PIER 39's West Marina have been an international sensation for more than 20 years. A few California sea lions began "hauling out" in PIER 39's West Marina shortly after the 1989 San Francisco Loma Prieta earthquake. The boisterous barking pinnipeds started arriving in droves and took over K-Dock in January 1990. At first they numbered from 10-50, but due to a plentiful herring supply, the available dock space and protective environment, the population soon grew to more than 300 in a couple months.

For the past two decades, The Marine Mammal Center, an organization devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals, as well as to the study of these animals' health, advised PIER 39 that the sea lions should be allowed to stay.

In November 2009, a record number of sea lions were counted on K-Dock (1,701 to be exact)! Later that same month their numbers quickly dwindled and by December 2009 only a handful were visiting K-Dock. Researchers at The Marine Mammal Center attributed their departure to a shift in food source, which caused the population to travel to other regions in their normal range including the Oregon Coast to feed. Slow the sea lions migrated back to PIER 39 to the delight of locals and tourists who gather from all over the world to watch the playful behavior of the California sea lions.

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