Sea lions swarm Ballard’s waterfront

Out front of the popular Ballard waterfront restaurant, Ray’s Boathouse, a large gathering of California sea lions has taken residency of a floating breakwater.

About 40 to 50 sea lions have come together in Ballard by Ray’s Boathouse restaurant. There are many factors that have resulted in the seemingly sudden large gathering of marine animals.

Casey Mclean, executive director of SeaLifeR3 (SR3) and veterinary nurse, explained that sea lions move for a variety of reasons over the years.

“Sea lions are highly mobile and go looking for the best resources,” Mclean said. These resources include areas with high forage fish spawning, less boating and water activities, and calm water.

Recent high winds and storms, high herring spawning, and less frequent boating due to COVID are all local factors that could have led to the increase in sea lions. “They are opportunistic feeders,” said Mclean, “they just move around looking for food before going back to California for mating and pupping season in May.”

Photo by Matty Leaman

The social group of sea lions in Ballard are mostly sub-adult and adult males, which shows that these sea animals are likely waiting for spring mating to return home. The length of their stay until breeding season is also determined by the same factors such as weather, food, and human activity, so it is unknown how long the sea lions will be in Ballard.

Mclean recommends that visitors of the sea lions in Ballard respect the animals and remember they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. She says over the years they will come and go, so enjoy them while they are here but keep a distance in doing so.

If any of the sea lions seem hurt or unhealthy, you can call 206-695-2277, the number for Sno-King Marine Mammal Response.

For more details and information on the California sea lions, please visit here.

Featured photo by Matty Leaman