Sea Lions of the Sea of Cortez

California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) can be found in multiple locations along the Sea of Cortez, in the Baja California peninsula. These charismatic animals congregate in rocky spots where they form colonies, there are about 13 identified colonies in the Sea of Cortez.

Sea lions in the Islotes sea lion colony

Los Islotes sea lion colony

Close to La Paz, in Los Islotes, an islet in the Espiritu Santo archipelago, resides the biggest and healthiest colonies of the area with around 800 individuals. Los Islotes belongs to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is a very special colony: it is the only one in the Sea of Cortez that hasn´t declined in numbers in the last years, and not only that, it has actually increased!

The population of sea lions in the Gulf of California has decreased, due to a rise in water temperature and the reduction in local fish stocks. But why is Los Islotes different? A scientific investigation discovered that these sea lions feed on deeper water fish than other sea lions. This finding shows that they adapted to dive deeper, looking for food when their usual prey started to be scarce. Another important fact is that in Los Islotes, human activities such as fishing and tourism are restricted. This means the sea lions have a sanctuary where they can rest and reproduce.

Female sea lion taking an underwater nap

Other colonies and sea lion encounters

We can find sea lions in other areas of the Sea of Cortez. In Cerralvo island, close to La Ventana they are found in different locations, being La Reina one of their favorite spots to hang out. On the south point of Cerralvo, young males like to rest on the rocks enjoying the sun.

Adult California sea lions can be territorial and keep their distance from people, but young ones like to get close to humans, sometimes too much! Playing with the puppies while snorkeling or scuba diving is great fun and an unforgettable experience. There are great opportunities for photographs in and out of the water and beautiful wild moments to witness: I have seen mothers breastfeeding, pups playing with starfish, males fighting, juveniles playing games with each other, babies playing with my fins…

Baby sea lion underwater

Because of all these, visiting the sea lions is one of the highlight experiences in the Sea of Cortez! Whether in Cerralvo, in Espíritu Santo, or other locations, like up north in Bahía de Los Ángeles they are always super fun animals to encounter! You can find more information about this species in this link from the NOAA

If you would like to visit sea lions in their natural habitat, you can contact me here.

Baja California Wildlife- Wildlife stories

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