California wildlife officials are scrambling to figure out who has been shooting sea lions along the Malibu coast after a fourth corpse washed ashore earlier this month.
According to ABC News, four sea lions have been stranded on Malibu beaches
in the last two months and all of them suffered multiple gunshot wounds. It's illegal to shoot the endangered sea lions as they are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
"The past couple of weeks, there have been more than usual animals stranding on the beaches. We are getting a greater number with bullet holes in them," Mike Remski, marine mammal rehabilitation manager at the California Wildlife Center, told ABC News. "For the ones that wash-up dead, necropsies are done and we try to retrieve the bullets to find a cause of death. If they're alive, they're sent immediately to the rehabilitation center [Marine Mammal Care Center (MMCC)] in San Pedro."
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Remski suspects that squid fishermen may be the ones shooting the sea lions, as the animals prey on squid.
"We always get increased shootings of sea lions when there is fishing going on whether it's squid or other fishing offshore," he said. "We are very used to seeing animals with bullets in them especially during squid season."
But Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, said she doesn't believe it's the fishermen.
"We don't condone illegal activity and our members do not condone illegal activity, period. And they don't practice it either," she told ABC News. "Just because we have fishery at the same time, doesn't mean they are responsible, and it's unfortunate that people put two and two together. They're sentencing the fishery without proof."
A person could be fined $10,000 and face possible jail time if convicted of shooting a sea lion.
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