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When the Sea Lion Sh*t Hits the Fan

Ah, the majestic sea lions, nature’s lethargic, barking piles of blubber, who — like a pack of sun-starved, snowbird tourists — can turn docks into lounge chairs and laze in the sun for hours. Sure, this might be an unflattering description of one of God’s creatures (both sea lions and tourists), but there’s no doubt that pinnipeds and sailors’ habitats have a tendency to overlap.

What have been your experiences when sea lions get a little too close, or too possessive of the docks?

Case in point:

You’ve likely seen similar scenes of sea lions, seen here in Monterey Harbor over Labor Day weekend, at a West Coast marina near you.
© 2022 Steve Gann

Earlier this year, Steve Gann of the Monterey-based Cal 40 Boomer wrote to describe what he called a growing problem not just with sea lions, but with their inevitable excrement. Gann said sea lion poop is toxic and discolors docks.

Sea lion droppings also inspire hilarious signage. Case in point:

There is, apparently, an entire ecosystem around sea lion excrement, or a brand of satire born from sh*t.
© 2022 Steve Gann

Earlier this year we put in a call to the Monterey harbormaster, who reminded us that sea lions are transient, and tend to come and go with the food they’re chasing. While Steve Gann said he believed that there was an increase in the population, the harbormaster could neither confirm nor deny that was true

For those of us who grew up in the Bay Area in the ’70s and ’80s, when the Bay was filthy and polluted, we see the proliferation of sea life as a positive sign of a healthy ecosystem. But when is nature just a little too robust, potentially crossing lines both literal and metaphorical, and potentially causing conflict with humans?

Case in point, Freya the Walrus:


Are sea lions (and/or their poop) a problem in your neck of the water? What deterrents does your marina use to ward off pinnipeds?

On a delivery to Ventura in 2020, we saw plastic “statues” of dogs on the dock to dissuade sunbathing sea lions, as well as ropes, anchored by orange five-gallon Home Depot buckets, running the length of a dock. NOAA says, “There is no single non-lethal deterrence method known to be universally effective in discouraging pinnipeds from engaging in problem behaviors. Nevertheless, [some] methods and techniques have been found useful, in some circumstances, for deterring nuisance animals that are damaging property, fishing gear, or catch.”

Please comment below with your experiences, observations, etc. If you have any pictures of trespassing pinnipeds, please send them here.


  1. Catherine Callahan 2 years ago

    I used a high-powered flashlight at night they left for the night but returned during the day Sort of worked and got some sleep at least. Our harbor is using plastic spike-type strips which kind of work although hard to tie up your boat around them. I also have witnessed them going around them and using them for scratching posts. Buckets from home depo are the worst idea they end up in the bay being hazards and just plain litter. I wish I had a picture of the dock next to me full of them with one in the cockpit of a very nice picnic boat. Yikes, that’s when I discovered they don’t do bright lights.

  2. Cecile Schwedes 2 years ago

    Nothing guarantees safe passage on the dock in H Basin in Marina del Rey- hanging several fenders off trawler stern over swim step helps but still one night I nearly stepped onto a pregnant brown female draped the swim step length–she wouldn’t move either. Several give birth leaving gooey stuff on the dock and splattered all over my boat’s hullsides and deck. Often, I have to clamber on my boat’s bow via the dock box to get aboard when the resident bull has his harem of several females obstructing the dock fingers all around. It definitely smells very fishy. Not much deters them. I am the intruder to their natural water world, but what a challenge to negotiate their residence. Marina’s take away their natural rocky shore. Maybe we should float some Pinneped Platforms for them!?!

  3. Daniel 2 years ago

    The sea lions in Ventura have become unbearable! As stated in the article, the smell that permeates the docks is putrid and rancid. Seal are laying-waste to the docks, with consistently loud barking at all hours of the day and night. It make sleeping, or working from your boat, very difficult. The outright brazen behavior of charging at you if you are not wielding a boathook or other self-defense like stick when trying to shoo them off is quite worrisome. What if a child thinks they’re cute and decides to approach them, or the possible health issues associated with the aforementioned excrement as it dries and becomes airborne, or any number of other means of inadvertently ingesting the feces. I do not understand why, with the newly renovated docks here in our marina, the marina has taken more actively engaged in protecting both their docks and the paying tenants. I contend, if the sea lions are left to do as they may, they will not be only seasonable but will become entrenched and more in numbers.

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