One of my favorite things to do while I am in San Francisco is to see the sea lions at Pier 39. Since Katie and I were at Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch we took the short walk to check them out. We walked over to the end of the pier or K dock where the sea lions can be seen.
The sea lions, now often called the “Sea Lebrities” of Pier 39, started arriving in January of 1990 after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. At first there were only 10-50, but quickly their numbers grew to over 300 within a few months. Today, the numbers reach over 900 in the winters, many of which are male.
Early on San Francisco became aware that their “Sea Lebrities” could be a problem for Pier 39. The sea lions were overtaking the dock space and making it too dangerous for the boaters to dock their boats safely. San Francisco decided to make and dedicated docks specifically for the sea lions. Once they did the sea lions quickly realized this space was for them and there hasn’t been an issue since.
The marina’s protected environment with its plentiful dock space and it’s bountiful supply of herring is the main draw to the sea lions. When Katie and I arrived we could immediately see that it was their 25th Anniversary. As we got closer we read signs posted by the Sea Lion Center that the males migrate south during the summer months. There were 4 on the day we were there. These four had decided not to take the trek south to mate for one reason or another. Two of them were slightly skinny, but very active males and the other two were even younger, still fuzzy, less alert males. One of younger ones looked as though he had been bitten by a shark.
We headed up to the Sea Lion Center to ask about the poor little guy that had been bitten. Of course they knew about him and were watching him and monitoring his recovery. The rescue team had been contacted, but only intervene when it is a man-made issue. Everyone was hoping and praying he would make it and while it sucked and he was definitely having a bad day I was told that his wound looked like it was healing nicely and they all thought he would make it. The Sea Lion Center’s employees were a little happy though to see his wound. To them it meant the Bay was healthy and there were sharks in the area.
We took a few more minutes exploring the center. Feeling the different seal and sea lions’ fur, looking a pictures, learning where different seals and sea lions live, and a little about sharks their main predator. They even have a life-sized skeleton right when you walk in the door and sea lions and a shark hanging from the ceiling. And the best part is that it is all free. Free to see the sea lions at the end of the pier and free to take a few minutes to walk through the Sea Lion Center. But don’t forget to donate a few dollars to them so they can continue to do amazing work helping to save our marine life.