Sea Lion With Fishing Hook Lodged in Chest Rescued From LA Port

A sea lion with a hook protruding from its neck has been rescued from a port in Los Angeles.

Images posted by the Marine Animal Rescue group to Facebook showed the sea lion at the water's edge with what they said was a gaff hook sticking out of its neck.

The hooks are sharp implements attached to poles used to lift fish from the water and into boats. Fishing equipment such as gaff hooks, nets and lines are a leading threat to California sea lions.

Marine Animal Rescue said that the sea lion had been spotted out of the water at the U.S. Coast Guard LA facility with the hook protruding from its neck.

A separate image posted by Marine Animal Rescue showed a close-up of the hook after it was removed from the sea lion. The pointed and curved sharp end of the hook appeared to have snapped off from the longer pole gaff that the hooks are typically attached to.

California sea lions are a protected species in the U.S. under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which was first introduced in 1972. Their population has been increasing since the act was introduced. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated that there were over 233,000 California Sea Lions in the U.S. in the most recent survey of the animals published by NOAA.

The NOAA said that the mammals become entangled in items such as gillnets, sometimes dragging the items along with them for long distances. This impedes their ability to hunt and reproduce successfully and can lead to their death.

Human harassment of sea lions also poses a direct threat. The NOAA discourages feeding sea lions as it can impact their behavior and lead them to associate humans with an easy meal. The animals have been known to eat bait catch off fishing gear and are subsequently be targeted in retaliatory killings by fishermen.

Other images showing sea lions at risk accompanied the Marine Animal Rescue post. The group said they had taken in the sea lion injured by the gaff hook and the other animals pictured in the post to their rehab center for care.

Sea lions make up most rescues carried out by the group (excluding birds) according to data published on its website. Some 1,261 of the animals have been cared for by Marine Animal Rescue in total next to 158 elephant seals, 20 fur seals and seven dolphins and whales.

Stock image of a California sea lion
Stock image of a California sea lion. Human equipment is one of the leading threats faced by the animals. Martina Birnbaum/Getty Images