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Monday, August 3, 2015

Pier 39 Sea Lions, San Francisco

Sea Lions of Pier 39

A lot of people probably don't know that I have a B.S. in Marine Biology. They probably also don't know that I spent most of my life obsessed with the idea of being a marine animal trainer/researcher. I owned just about every book on what you have to do to work in an aquarium, and train marine mammals. 

Well, all of these books talked about how important it was to volunteer at an aquarium. So, I spent a lot of my time volunteering, and later interning with the Mystic Aquarium down in Connecticut. I was very lucky and got to work with the aquariums collections of Beluga Whales, African Penguins, Fur Seals, Harbor Seal and Stellar Sea Lion. 

I really miss my experiences at the aquarium, and I am so thankful for that opportunity and the years I was able to spend there. To say I have always been infatuated with marine life is an understatement. So when I planned my trip to San Francisco, stopping at Pier 39 was a must. I have never seen wild sea lions and this was really a trip highlight for me.

Pier 39 is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area. Home to restaurants, aquariums, shops, and the famous California Sea Lions that haul out on one of the piers. So why do these sea lions hang out here?

Pier 39 

Sea Lions and The Sea Lion Story 

"A few California sea lions began “hauling out” on PIER 39′s K-Dock shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco in October 1989. By January 1990, the boisterous barking pinnipeds started to arrive in droves and completely took over K-Dock, much to the exasperation of PIER 39′s Marina tenants. The Marina Staff turned to The Marine Mammal Center, an organization devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals, for advice about their new slippery tenants. After much debate and research, the experts from The Marine Mammal Center recommended that the sea lions stay in their new found home.

With a plentiful supply of food from the Bay and an environment protected from predators, the PIER 39 Marina proved to be an ideal living situation for the sea lions. Within a few short months, the number of sea lions grew to more than 300 and hit an all-time record of 1,701 in November 2009.

Pier 39 Viewing Dock 

Pier 39 Viewing Dock 

While the number of sea lions at K-Dock rise and fall with the seasons, available food supply and natural migration patterns, the world famous sea lions always have a home at PIER 39.

During the summer months, it’s not uncommon to see few or no sea lions at PIER 39’s K-Dock. California sea lions travel south to give birth and breed on offshore island rookeries, ranging from Southern California’s Channel Islands south to Mexico. All sea lions share the instinct to return to rookery islands during this time; however, some non-breeding animals will linger along the coast. The first pups are born by May 25th and the breeding season is over by July 20th. Adult females often remain near rookeries year-round, whereas males and juvenile females move north after the breeding season. The number of sea lions at PIER 39 typically increases after the first week of August."

Pier 39 Sea Lions 
With the large number or sea lion pups showing up starving and emaciated on our beaches, I was really excited that there were a number of sea lions on the pier.  If you want to read more about the sea lion pups, Read More Here
My pet peeve is when people call them seals.  These are sea lions.  You can tell by that long front flipper sea lions walk on.  Seals just have those short stubby T Rex like arms.  Sea Lions not Seals :) 

Pier 39 Sea Lions 

and see how many sea lions are at the pier today!


  1. So awesome! I am very fascinated by the marine life too, I wish there was such a thing as marine biology here. I've been wanting to study orcas and sharks for as long as I can remember. There are just no specific classes to be taken here and America is SO expensive to go to school too :(

    x- Naomi in Wonderland

    1. It is ridiculous and so sad the cost of education in this country. I am just finishing my masters degree and you do not want to know how much my 7 years of school to date has cost! I am so sad they dont offer that where you are!

      Maybe you would find some kind of volunteer program at an aquarium?

      Katie @ Katie Wanders

  2. Haha, I read the intro too fast at first so I read "I spent most of my life obsessed with the idea of being a marine animal"! I had no idea there were sea lions in San Francisco! I'll have so many things to discover there...


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