Critters: Lions and Seals

Sea lions and seals are not frequent visitors to Del Mar waters. They mostly hang out in La Jolla where they are allowed to have their own space still called the Children’s Beach and the Cove but they do occasionally glide into view. How to tell who’s who: Sea lions are brown, feature little ear flaps, are leaner and they bark. Some seals are brown but they are also come in darker gray to black tones, some with speckled skin. Seals do not have ear flaps (but do hear through small holes on the sides of their heads), do not make loud sounds and are rounder and so appear plumper.


If you see either at the beach understand that these are wild marine animals no matter how cute they look. And just now they may be aggravated and aggressive because their food source, fish, isn’t safe. The recent red algae bloom carries a neurotoxin that fish have fed on. When the sea lions and seals eat these fish they also ingest the neurotoxin. If it doesn’t kill them as it has many, it  can cause neurological issues and behavioral changes. They  can become confused and hostile. Lately there have been reports of sea lions charging after people on La Jolla beaches.  In Del Mar one 14 year old boy was bitten by a sea lion last July.


Sea lions and seals are themselves the food source of underwater stalkers: the great white sharks, the most aggressive sharks in the world. The sharks favor “pinnipeds”—sea lions and seals—though of course they also go after  dolphins, various species of whales and fish.They stay in shallow waters where they can find lots of sea lions and seals. While great white sharks have super movement sensing abilities they don’t see well and unfortunately may mistakenly taste test a human. But really rarely. The consensus is that your chances of being attacked by a great white shark are actually less than your chances of being struck by lightning. And they don’t like people—too bony.