Northbound gray whales continue to be a sure thing. We’ve been finding them about ten miles straight out from Moss Landing and they’ve been giving us great looks. But today’s great find was a Steller seal lion we spotted after we got back inside the harbor.
The Steller sea lion sighting in Moss Landing today is an unusual and striking occurrence. This huge sea lion, which grows to 2500 pounds and eleven feet length, is over three times the size of the California sea lion, which resides along our coastline in abundance.
The rare sighting of this magnificent animal right in the Moss Landing Harbor is truly impressive. Perched on the dock alongside its smaller cousin, it towers above the full-size California sea lion males like a monster.
In the last thirty years, the Steller sea lion population has crashed precipitously and mysteriously. The decline is likely linked to declining food supplies and predation. It is now a threatened and endangered species and is not often seen close to shore along the southern portion of its range on the California coast, as the majority of Steller sea lions are found farther north in Alaskan waters. Ano Nuevo Island has a small breeding colony, which is the southernmost extent of its breeding range. Currently 125-200 pups are born annually there. Here is some good news: despite the steady decline over the past thirty years, the birth rate now appears to be stabilizing locally. Keep your eyes open for occasional sub-adult males at Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz. (Thanks to UCSC Ano Nuevo researcher Pat Morris for the update.)