Domoic Acid: Seals and Sea Lion Rehab

Visiting the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, CA is an eye opening experience. 90% of the patients are in care due to malnutrition and dehydration, with the other 10% varying in reasons from fishing nets to domoic acid poisoning to sting rays stings or abrasions.

Malnutrition, dehydration, and domoic acids have some important aspects in common. Malnutrition and dehydration can result from several reasons, but an important one is rising temperatures in the water, which can link back to domoic acid levels and ocean acidification.

To learn more about ocean acidification and how we can limit ourselves there, visit the blog post titled "Aqua Ally on Coral Reefs and Ocean Acidification." Domoic Acid is an ocean-induced problem, which to some people might mean that there is nothing we can do to help. This is simply not true. There is always something, no matter how minimal or simple.

Domoic acid levels are harmful when they reach too high of concentrations. It can be produced from harmful algal blooms (red tides) when there is an overload of nutrients in the water. This can happen because of natural storms bringing nutrients to the surface that are usually deeper in the ocean, or it can be a result from nutrient runoff from man-made materials. Smaller fishes consume the harmful algae and the toxins from the algal blooms transfer through biomagnification to the bigger predators and marine mammals. As the biomass increases, the concentration of toxins increases and the severity of the domoic acid effects increases.

One way we can help prevent these nutrient overloads is by using less lawn fertilizers, using less chemicals in our cars and other places we generally do. Any kind of fertilizer that contains extra nutrients can find its way through a watershed, sewer, or other drainage system into the ocean and cause issues.

Equally important is what we do once the harm is done. Seals and sea lions are in constant need of rehab, whether that be because of malnutrition, dehydration, or domoic acid poisoning. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is currently inhabiting:

39 Sea Lions, 4 Elephant Seals, 2 Harbor Seals, 0 Fur Seals

- See more at:

We can help these rescue/rehab/release centers by education. If we educate people on how they can help limit the pollution and nutrient levels that flow into the ocean, then maybe the number of marine mammals in need of care will decrease and the ocean ecosystem will be contained at a healthier level.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.
— Vera Nazarian