You are here

Respecting Malibu’s marine wildlife

Lauren Coughlin, Editor
9:29 am PST February 23, 2017

Last spring, myself and others came across a sea lion resting on the sand near El Matador Beach. 

It had no visible wounds, but it was still a concerning sight. We automatically assumed that it was ill, as it seemed unnatural for the mammal to be out of the water, but we didn’t know how to help. 

We kept our distance, and one of the individuals I was with called the California Wildlife Center, which said it had already received some calls about the same sea lion. They asked about its behavior, and assured us that it was likely fine, but said that we should keep our distance nonetheless. 

We were comforted by the assurance we received, and the group I was with went to lunch.  

We later came back to find it walking further up on the beach, where some teenage bypassers were pausing to take multiple selfies with it.

While I’m no expert, it was obvious to us that the young photo-takers were far too close, even if the sea lion seemed unfazed by their presence. 

The whole scenario came rushing back to me when I read this week’s On Common Ground column by Mike Remski (featured on Page 13).

I can’t say for sure what happened to the sea lion I saw, but I am sure many in Malibu have witnessed similar scenarios. And, clearly, there are many who already know to call CWC, as we did not place the first call in my personal scenario.

My gut tells me that most in the community would take the same approach as myself and those I was with, but some just may not know any better. That’s precisely why groups like the Apex Protection Project (featured in this week’s news cover story) are of upmost importance. While they are focused on wolves rather than marine animals, they also teach wildlife awareness in a very memorable way.

Children, young teens and adults alike should know the limits when it comes to wildlife, but they should also know how to coexist. And while the wolves that visited Sycamore School were happy to lick and greet their hosts, they were also the exception. In the wild, there is nobody there to tell you what you can or cannot do with the rare and beautiful animal that is in front of you. There may not be an internal sense of right and wrong for all, and so often curiosity trumps common sense.

Malibu is very fortunate to have so many animal lovers and caretakers in the surrounding area, and I hope that residents and visitors alike will heed the advice of the California Wildlife Center. Something that may seem harmless can so often make a drastic difference.