Sea lion defending kelp !?

Scuba Diving on the Great Escape Southern California Live-Aboard Dive Boat

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Posted by Sven on February 08, 2004 at 18:53:34:

Nancy and I were out sailing yesterday (and today), we headed south toward King Harbor. Outside Manhattan Beach Nancy spotted something in the distance that looked like it might be tangled in some kelp. We decided to check. We tacked back and headed down toward the mass of kelp and the "flippers" we thought we'd seen.

Once we got closer we saw that it was a sea lion and it was lying on its back on the kelp, looking at us. It didn't look right so we figured it really might be snared in some fishing line or netting.

When we got within 40 feet the sea lion made it clear it was not tangled as it dove off its mat of kelp. Next thing we knew we were completely startled as the sea lion jumped out of the water about 10 feet from the stern of our little boat ... literally leaping clear out of the water, looking at us and with a mouth full of teeth wide open. At first we thought it was playing but when we tacked back for another look it became clear that it was not happy about us being there as it repeatedly jumped out of the water and showed its teeth, sometimes grunting and always looking straight at us.

At that point we decided to retreat as the big bull could easily have jumped into the cockpit even if the landing would have been uncomfortable for all of us since he was quite big and would have made the cockpit quite crowded even without all those teeth. The sea lion "chased" us until we were at least 50 or 60 feet from the kelp, at that point it returned and we headed back south.

Since we've dived with sea lions on several occasions we were really surprised by this aggressiveness. There were no females around unless they stayed down for the full 5 to 10 minutes. As far as we could tell, the sea lion didn't have a big fish it was munching on since it was lying on its back when we first got there.

So, why was the sea lion so ferociously defending a bed of kelp a NM off Manhattan Beach !?


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