Marine Mammal Care

Learn About Marine Mammals

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The Marine Mammal Care Center specializes in pinnipeds, which means “fin-or-flipper-footed.”

California Sea Lion

Zalophus californianus

California sea lions are “eared seals” native to the West Coast of North America. You commonly see them on beaches, docks, buoys, and jetties.

Females can weigh up to 240 pounds and grow up to 6 feet, while males will grow up to 700 pounds and 7.5 feet. They have broad front flippers, dog-like snouts, and visible ear flaps.

Northern Elephant Seal

Mirounga angustirostris

Northern elephant seals are the largest of the “true” seals in the Northern Hemisphere. During the winter adult males use their inflatable noses helping them make loud sounds (vocalizations) to threaten other males.

Northern elephant seals grow up to 4,400 pounds and 13 feet. They were once thought to be extinct due to commercial sealing however with more protections, their population began to steadily increase.

Pacific Harbor Seal

Phoca vitulina richardii

Harbor seals are a common marine mammal found on the United States coasts. They can be up to 6 feet long and 285 pounds and are normally seen on low rocks and beaches. Harbor seal fur is normally light tan, silver, or blue-gray with dark spots or rings. Harbor seal babies are very precocious, able to swim at birth and dive for several minutes when they are only a few days old.

Northern Fur Seal

Callorhinus ursinus

Northern fur seals are members of the “eared seal” family and have a stocky body, small head, very short snout, and extremely dense fur. Their scientific name, Callorhinus ursinus, means “bear-like”.

Northern Fur Seals were historically hunted for their fur on land and at sea. They are highly pelagic (live in the open ocean), and spend 80% of their lives in the ocean, the remaining 20% is during their mating season.

Guadalupe Fur Seal

Arctocephalus townsendi

Guadalupe fur seals are eared seals and can be distinguished from northern fur seals by their pointed, flattened, elongated snouts. They are classified as “Threatened” in terms of their conservation status and are seen less frequently than Northern Fur seals in California waters. Guadalupe fur seals are generally solitary, and are thought to be non-social animals when at sea.

Their breeding grounds are almost entirely on Guadalupe Island, off the Pacific coast of Mexico, with recent re-colonization of the islands comprising the San Benito Archipelago. A small number of Guadalupe fur seals have also been reported on the northern Channel Islands off California.

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The Marine Mammal Protection Act

The Marine Mammal Protection Act was enacted on October 21, 1972. All marine mammals in the United States are protected and it is illegal to harass, feed, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal. The Marine Mammal Care Center receives special permits that allow us to rehabilitate animals in need. These laws play a crucial role in conservation and the health of our oceans. Thank you for supporting our conservation mission.