MALIBU ( — Federal officials are declaring an “unusual mortality event” after hundreds of California sea lion pups have become stranded in Southern California.

KNX 1070’s Tom Reopelle reports the move by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) comes after what the agency described as “elevated strandings of California sea lion pups” in Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Diego counties.

Since Jan. 1, more than 900 sea lions have been admitted to rehabilitation facilities, far outpacing historical stranding rates for 2008 to 2012, according to NOAA.

This weekend alone, officials with SeaWorld rescued nine sea lions from Oceanside to Encinitas, with 240 lions in all saved in 2013 — more than the entire years of 2011 and 2012 combined.

But SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz said most sea lions that are being treated are struggling to stay alive.

“The vast majority of the animals that we’re seeing are dehydrated and malnourished,” said Koontz. “We do see some injuries – that’s not unusual – but the vast majority of these animals are just not being able to find a food source.”

The California Marine Mammal Stranding Network and other rescue groups have reported finding the animals, who are significantly below their average weight, suffering from emaciation and dehydration.

“Apparently, there’s 10 to 20 to 30 a day up and down the coast of San Diego,” Oceanside lifeguard Blake Faumuina said.

An independent team of scientists has been assembled to coordinate with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to review all relevant data and develop an investigative plan under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

RELATED: Starving Sea Lion Pups Mysteriously Washing Up On Southland Beaches

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