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Board Of Supervisors Approves $7,000 Grant To Care For Stricken California Sea Lion Pups

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Malnourished sea lion pups recover at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur on April 9, 2013 in San Pedro, California. Sickly emaciated sea lion pups have been turning up on California's coastline in unusually high numbers since January - with live strandings nearly three times higher than the historical average.  (credit: JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Malnourished sea lion pups recover at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur on April 9, 2013 in San Pedro, California. Sickly emaciated sea lion pups have been turning up on California’s coastline in unusually high numbers since January – with live strandings nearly three times higher than the historical average. (credit: JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A $7,000 grant to care for local sea lion pups, that have been found severely dehydrated an malnourished, has been approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The recent distress among California sea lions, which some marine rescue groups are calling an epidemic, may possibly be the result of domoic acid poisoning.

The funding is reportedly going to the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur, which houses a rehabilitation facility, supported by the Foundation for Marine Animal Husbandry.

The rescue center is one of the busiest in the country, typically treating between 300-500 marine mammals each year, consisting primarily of California sea lions and northern elephant seals.

All ill sea mammals that are rescued in Los Angeles County are taken to the Marine Mammal Care Center, which generally admits about 50 animals during the first three months of each year.

In 2013, the center has already admitted 350 animals that had been stranded due to illness or injury.

The busy season for the center is usually from March to August.

The grant, which is the organization’s first from the Los Angeles County Fish and Game Commission, will  fund both diagnostic blood work and medicine.

Sea lions and seals are both protected under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, and hundreds of animals have been treated and released back into the breeding population each year by the Marine Mammal Care Center.

Domoic acid is produced by naturally occurring algae blooms, and it accumulates in shellfish, sardines, and anchovies — which make up some of the sea lion’s preferred foods.

The biotoxin affects the brain, disorienting animals and making them lethargic.

The Marine Mammal Care Center documented its first major outbreak of the toxin among sea lions in 1998.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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