Shot Sea Lion

A sea lion that washed up in Malibu on Oct. 10 was found with four bullet wounds (see arrows). The animal later died of its injuries. 

Wildlife rescue workers confirmed last week that two sea lions that washed onto the Malibu coast on Oct. 10th and 11th died of gunshot wounds, while a third dead sea lion bore suspicious injuries. The shooting deaths coincided with the beginning of the squid fishing season on Oct. 1, but a spokesperson for the fishing industry said fishermen in the area were unaware of any shooting in the area. 

One sea lion washed up alive on Broad Beach on Thursday, Oct. 10 with suspicious injuries, according to biologist Jeff Hall of the California Wildlife Center, and later died after being transported to the Marine Mammal Care Center (MMCC) in San Pedro. 

A second sea lion was found dead on Big Rock Beach on Oct. 11, and was found to have a bullet in its right shoulder, Hall said. 

Subsequent necropsies performed at the MMCC confirmed the two sea lions died of bullet wounds, MMCC veterinarian Lauren Palmer said. 

“These two animals, yes they were shot. Yes they were killed,” Palmer said. “Who did it? I don’t know.” 

The third sea lion was found dead at the beginning of the month. 

Some have suggested that the dozens of squid boats that showed up near County Line Beach at the beginning of the month and the death of the sea lions may be related. 

Squid fishing season begins Oct. 1. Dozens of boats flock to the Malibu coastline for its sandy bottoms, which harbor fertile squid populations. Using a small boat with 30 1,000-watt lights, fishermen flip the light switch to attract huge masses of squid to the surface, then circle the squid with a net and pump them into the hold of an adjacent boat. 

The squid also attract hunters such as sea lions. Sea lions and other mammals are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Fishermen are allowed to use nonlethal means, such as firecracker-like “seal bombs,” to scare hunters away from their nets, but not bullets. Critics allege it happens anyway. 

Donna Collins, a seasonal worker for California State Parks, said she commonly heard gunshots and saw flashes of light from squid boats when she stopped at County Line Beach last winter while on patrol. She usually stopped at County Line around 11 p.m., she said. 

“These were definitely gunshots. And it had happened several times,” Collins said. “I contacted the Coast Guard… They said they’d had several complaints about it as well. They said they were going to do their own investigation. We never heard anything about that particular incident.” 

Collins said she has since transferred her patrol and has not heard the sounds this winter, but believes what she heard is continuing. 

Hall said he did not know who shot the sea lions, but did say “it’s not at all uncommon that when the fishing season opens we get a higher number animals that are shot.” 

But Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, which represents the squid fishery, said CWPA members “don’t condone illegal activity.” 

“I’ve spoken to a couple of squid fishermen who were fishing recently around the Malibu coast area and they were unaware of any shooting activity related to the squid fishery,” Pleschner-Steele wrote in an email. “Deliberately ‘taking’, i.e., shooting or harassing marine mammals by potentially lethal means, is prohibited… and could trigger a big fine and prosecution.” 

Pleschner-Steele continued that “fishermen do have approval now to use nonlethal means to protect gear and catch, and some use seal deterrent devices… [but] shooting sea lions is not a common practice in the squid fishery.” 

(17) comments

Chris Lewis

OMG this is so sad. What is wrong with these people? As a visitor to your beautiful part of the world this year one of my fondest memoriesfrom my trip was watching the sea lions barking on the rocks off Pt Dume . This breaks my heart. There are just too many guns in the USA and in the hands of too many idiots.

Matt Horns

I talked with a salmon troller years ago in Northern California who described days when a sea lion followed him around, taking a big bite out of every salmon he hooked. This is obviously very frustrating, but in no way justifies killing sea lions.


Josh...bullets were retrieved from the sea lions...

Steve Woods

Meanwhile on land , animals and birds of prey are still dying of rodenticide poisoning .

miss malibu

The sea lions in Malibu have had such a horrific year. Have personally seen 6 dead of natural causes between little Dume and Broad beach. I hope this instance is not poaching. Horrible.

D. Fote

Mostly helpful comments in this discussion concerning marine mammals, other than humans. Thank you David and Josh for the contact information. I would still like to know how the squid boats operate in what I thought was, as of this year, a protected fishery from Paradise Cove, all the way North/West to the point at Matador Beach. I understood I am not allowed to fish, even licensed with only one line from a kayak, in this area, yet I've counted over 27 squid boats there one evening when walking on the beach. Are there exceptions for commercial fishermen? It is blatantly obvious that one of these many visiting squid boats did this to the sea lions, and I heard a report of this story on the nationwide radio news this morning. I hope this type of coverage causes real action to be taken.

Josh Spiegel

Thanks David!!!
Anyone can also call 1(888)DFG-CALTIP to report poaching or anything like this.

Donna, I didn't see what you saw. I only wanted to explain the fact that "seal bombs" are used frequently by squid fisherman. I don't use them for several reasons (#1 being that explosives on a gas powered boat in the ocean doesn't seem very safe to me)

NOAA Law Enforcement

Anyone with information about the shooting or harassment of marine mammals can contact me.
Special Agent David L. Reilly
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Law Enforcement
501 West Ocean Blvd Suite 4300 Long Beach, CA 90802
(562)980-4056 Office
(562)9804058 Fax
(800)853-1964 Hotline 24/7


I hope they catch these Bastards who did this.... Show some Respect.... The Sea Lions are not bothering you. All they want to do is Swim and Eat. Remember the Ocean is their Home so, show them some RESPECT..
Whoever did this has no RESPECT for LIFE. They did this to Innocent Sea Lions.. No saying what other sick things they are doing to other Sea Life, Animals or People...
My message to the Person or People who did this..... You are Sick and you should seek some Help....


Big deal! Let's just care more about humans.


Correction, I was never "on patrol" we don't patrol, I witnessed these occurrence's on my way home from work. And yes they were gunfire, not seal bombs or M80's.

Sarah Kennedy Owen

My introduction to Broad Beach in 1966: police shooting at a baby sea lion at Lechuza Point, to "scare him off the rocks". Not a soul around, no threat to humans, just intimidation. The baby was waiting for its mother to come back. I'm glad to see humanity has improved since then, and we now care about the animals. However, the violence committed recently should not be tolerated, squid or no squid.

Josh Spiegel

The commercial squid fisherman use "Seal Bombs" which are basically M-80 firecrackers to scare them away (maybe that is what has been mistaken as "shots"). This is COMPLETELY legal and harmless. Also for some reason shooting seals with paintball guns is also legal.

I am a recreational fisherman and seals are a pain in the butt when they constantly steal your bait, but I would never EVER bring myself to shoot one of these marine mammals.

Also just so everyone knows, commercial squid fishing ended last Friday as they filled the quota.

D. Fote

Perhaps mistakenly, I though fishing was made illegal right in front of where my kayaks are stored at the Malibu West Swim Club, so I can no longer drop a simple line in, even to catch and release, without risking an expensive ticket from Fish and Game, or other vigilante enforcer of the newly protected fisheries off Broad Beach. Yet, the squidders are right there, thirty yards offshore, taking their haul, and yes, I have heard shots from their boats. What gives?


--00-- I completely agree! Who else would not want seals stealing their haul? Of course one of these boats was involved. And who's gonna know. Fog rolls in and a muffled shot off the coast? Too convenient.


Before reading the article I thought of all the fishing boats we have been seeing. This is exactly why people get tired and fed up and lose tolerance. Coexist? Oh please. Just another group who feel entitled to act and do whatever they want for their interests.


No, of course it wasn't the squid fishermen, it was another perp from the huge pool of suspects who have both the motive and the means to shoot at local sea lion populations.

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