Picture of the day: The Sealions of San Francisco’s Pier 39

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The Sea Lion Population at Pier 39 love to sunbathe.

First off, they are Sea Lions, not seals. Seals have ear flaps. The Sea Lions haven’t always been at Pier 39’s K dock, they are a fairly new phenomenon. The Sea Lions didn’t appear until the 1989 earthquake. Marine Biologists are uncertain as to why this happened except that maybe something disrupted their normal home environment or food source. But within months of the October 1989 quake, they began to appear. Their barking was considered a nuisance by the merchants at Fisherman’s Wharf where the pier is located so they appealed to the state for assistance in removing the new tenants. The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits moving the Sea Lions so the merchants were disappointed but not surprised when their request was denied.

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The number varies from over 1700 to around 300 depending on the season. The bay has large schools of herring which are prevalent more in the winter season. Also in the Spring many of the Sea Lions head south to the Channel Islands near LA for mating season.

But then the Sea Lions began drawing crowds. The Pier was always a popular tourist destination but now locals were coming too. And many businesses saw a steep increase in revenue. Today most businesses have changed their minds sharing the dock. There is still the barking which is almost constant and since most of the Sea Lions are male, there are occasional fights. In addition, the dock has to be sprayed down daily but many see it as a small price to pay for the increased revenue.

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The last time I was in San Francisco, I spent the entire morning at the pier drinking coffee and sourdough toast and watched their very entertaining antics. It was a fun and nearly free way to enjoy my visit to one of the world’s most expensive cities.

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