Domoic acid is thought to be the culprit in numerous reports of sea lions in distress on Santa Barbara and Ventura beaches. The marine mammal rescue group Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI) has received more than a hundred calls since an uptick in sightings on Monday, according to the group’s Instagram. Beachgoers are advised to keep at least 50 feet away from the animals, as they may respond aggressively if approached.
Volunteers are monitoring the reported animals, which are reportedly 150- to 200-pound female California sea lions, as transporting them could harm them further. Domoic acid is a neurotoxin produced when a marine diatom — Pseudo-nitzschia — blooms, and it attacks the brain and heart, causing disorientation, foaming at the mouth, seizures, and potentially death. Signs of acute toxicity usually resolve in about 72 hours. CIMWI is an all-volunteer nonprofit located in Gaviota, and the rescue hotline is (805) 567-1505.