MALIBU (CBSLA.com)  —  While Southern California has largely been spared thus far by the devastating effects of El Nino, sea life hasn’t been as lucky.

The weather phenomenon has had a big impact on inhabitants of the sea. Unusually warm ocean water, officials say, is literally making sea lions sick.

The animals are having trouble finding food up and down the coast.

Ron Barrett was dispatched near Point Mugu State Park.

He was sent to help rescue baby sea lions. Already this year, he’s rescued 16 of them.

“We’re seeing them 20, 25 pounds underweight,” Barrett said.

Why so sickly?

“When the water heats up,” Barrett explains, “the bait fish that the pups normally eat, they go deeper and farther out to colder water.”

The pups are also being weaned too early as their mothers go off in search of food.

“Even the mothers are struggling,” Barrett says. “To find food, they also have to travel further, and they just leave the pups behind.”

Tonight, his search for the pups came up empty.

“I got there and the animal[s] was gone, and that happens a lot, too. But we don’t get discouraged.”

The Channel Islands Marine Resource Institute, where Barrett volunteers, has rescued 38 pups since Jan. 1.

“Most of them are very thin, some are even emaciated,” he said.

Not all the pups they rescue survive, but treating them and releasing the ones who do is rewarding for this retired military veteran.

“Trying to give them a second chance,” Barrett says, “so they can be fat and happy sea lions.”

The pups are known to sunbathe, but not without their mothers. If you see an animal that appears sick, report it and give specifics about the location (landmarks, signs that you see.)

 

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