The sea lions of San Francisco’s Pier 39, near Fisherman’s Wharf, have always been a tourist draw. The curious and playful creatures have made their home here for quite some time. Ever since September of 1989 the number of sea lions on Seal Rock has been steadily decreasing, while their number on Pier 39 was increasing. Some people speculate that sea lions moved to docks because of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but the earthquake occurred months after the first sea lions had arrived at Pier 39. It’s likely the sea lions feel safer inside the Bay.
But in November of 2009 the more than 1,500 sea lions that had lived at the pier began to leave, and by late December 2009 nearly all were gone; a similar flux in population occurs annually, with the animals returning in the spring. Although the reason for their seasonal appearance and departure is not known for certain, according to Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, “Most likely, they left chasing a food source,” anchovies and sardines.
While the sea lions had become a popular tourist draw for San Francisco, they incessant noise and foul smell was more than many could handle. While they were always fun to photograph, the overwhelming stench will NOT be missed.
But will they return to their longtime home at Pier 39? Well as of April 2010, they’ve started to slowly return, with a few dozen now making Pier 39 their home. It looks as if many were scared off by a local fisherman’s dog.