Sea Lion Center

Available to the six million people visiting the world famous California seal lions each year, the Sea Lion Center offers the public free interpretive programs about California sea lions and their role in the local ecosystem.

Nature in an Urban Setting

The sea lions began arriving shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco in October 1989. A few of these gregarious animals began “hauling out” on the newly refurbished K-Dock. No one knows why exactly, but the new docks combined with ample food sources and protection from predators seemed to appeal to the sea lions. Within a few months, to the delight of millions of local residents and out-of-towners who visit this popular waterfront destination, droves of boisterous, barking sea lions completely took over K-Dock.

The sea lions are now seasonal inhabitants of K-Dock, and their numbers vary dramatically throughout the year with peak seasons every spring and fall. In November 2009, a record 1,701 sea lions occupied K-Dock.

Making the Most of an Educational Opportunity

Working together with our companion division, Aquarium of the Bay, the Sea Lion Center leverages this huge public interest in the sea lions to educate and inspire millions of visitors to protect them and San Francisco Bay. Our outreach includes free presentations on K-Dock by specially trained interpretive naturalists, and an educational center with a fully equipped classroom and conservation-focused exhibits, where we provide K-12 education programs.

Man-made and Other Dangers

While sea lions are prey to sharks, human-caused problems are their biggest danger. Sea lions are curious and use their noses to investigate floating objects, and too often get entangled in plastic fishing line, nets, or straps. Other man-made dangers are plastic trash, which sea lions sometimes ingest and gunshot wounds. Pollutants such as DDT and heavy metals, as well as natural toxins from harmful alga, sicken and kill sea lions.

By keeping track of trends in the total numbers of sea lions and observing the healthy, injured, sick and underweight sea lions on K-Dock, we can more effectively understand these challenges.

A Better Informed Public

Our on-site presentations and education programs encourage the public to reuse, recycle, and compost. We also inform the public about the importance of selecting sustainable seafood, which comes from better managed fisheries which usually practice more responsible use of fishing gear, resulting in less entanglement of marine animals.

We support legislation and initiatives that aim to reduce plastic pollution, such as plastic bag and takeout container ordinances, and Extended Producer Responsibility programs.

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