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Sea lions usually live in the ocean. So why are so many showing up on land?

Whether it's caused by El Niño or climate change, things aren't looking so great for some of our favorite marine mammals.

A week ago, a seal lion pup wandered into a fancy California restaurant.

It was an adorable story of a wayward pup at The Marine Room in La Jolla, California.

But it turns out the pup, nicknamed Marina, wasn't looking for hot brunch spot; she was looking for help.

When sea lions can't find food, they're forced to make their way to the shore to prevent from drowning. Sadly, on shore, there's not exactly a huge supply of food awaiting them, either.


A stranded adult sea lion is seen in the sand in Laguna Beach, Calif., in March 2015. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

Over the past few years, an inexplicably high number of malnourished sea lions have been washing up on California's shores, and nobody really knows what to do.

So far this year, 40 sea lions have been rescued in the San Diego area alone. Last year, nearly 1,000 washed ashore. Some suspect it has to do with El Niño, which has warmed the water and wiped out the sea lions' food supply —  anchovies, sardines, herring salmon, and plankton that are dying off — but this issue has been building for the past several years.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the number of sea lions stranded ashore is 20 times higher than it was a decade ago. That's not good, and it's a sign that this is a much larger issue than simply El Niño. 

Climate change plays a big role in this potentially devastating problem.

This photo from July 17, 2015 shows members of SeaWorlds Animal Rescue Team returning rehabilitated sea lions back into the ocean. Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images.

If we want a long-term solution, we need to address climate change.

If you've been looking for a reason to care about climbing temperatures, how about for the well-being of the adorable sea lions?

A group of sea lions hang out on a San Francisco dock in December 2007. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Marina's story had a happy ending, but there are thousands of other sea lions still in need. Here's hoping they get help.

The poor little pup was starving. Luckily, Marine Room manager Matt Caponi and employees were quick to get the 8-month-old the help she needed, calling a SeaWorld rescue team. The sea lion has been given some food, shelter, and is expected to make a full recovery.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


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