Category

Sea Lion

Steller Sea Lions, Eumetopias jubatus, Hornby Island, British Columbia

Canada, Hornby Island, Sea Lion, Underwater Photography

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32660
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I have a real love for pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). I’ve been in the water with many big animals including whales, sharks, dolphins, massive schools of fish, mola mola, etc etc, but pinnipeds — particularly sea lions — are the most fun to be with. Sea lions are typically curious and engaging, and the speed with which they move usually makes photographing them a challenge. The Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) at Norris Rocks near Hornby Island in British Columbia, however, take the cake. They are akin to gigantic puppies. They are considerably larger than California sea lions, a fact which was immediately apparent the first time I was pinned to the reef by a friendly mob of 20 juvenile Stellers. I had been warned about their antics by a few buddies who have been diving with them for years. One fellow even jokingly (or not) suggested a helmet might be helpful. I processed all this info and wondered whether I should be worried. I had never been in 45F-degree water, had not been in a drysuit in 15 years, was admittedly a little nervous about just surviving in such chilly water, so my dive plan was to hang back and watch the other divers get pummeled. It did not go as planned. Less than 5 minutes after I first got in the water at Norris Rocks I found myself face down on the reef, both wrists and both ankles firmly in the grip (re: mouth) of at least four different sea lions, regulator gently tugged by a fifth, and several others trying to nuzzle their faces close to mine for a look. Holy shit, I thought, is this stupid, crazy or super fun? Yes, yes, and yes. Every piece of my gear was a chew toy. Every one of my limbs was a chew toy. My head was a chew toy. It was an exhilarating, intimidating, wonderful experience to be with a mob of Steller sea lions, such a dense group that it would often blot out what little sunlight was reaching the bottom. While I try to avoid anthropomorphising the animals I meet underwater, these Stellers were so inquisitive, with so much very close eye contact, that every dive was a moving experience. Every time I got out of the water I felt more alive than I had in a long time. It only took a few dives for me to become comfortable with the action, and I found that even while getting mobbed I was still able to lift my camera up enough to snap off a photo or two. Granted, most of them were crap, either because the sea lions were too close for the strobe to light properly, or both strobes had been yanked backward by a couple sea lions, or there were simply too many bubbles in the water for anything sensible to be photographed.

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo
Image ID: 32659
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I joined underwater photographer Richard Salas for the week. Richard’s work is exceptional and caught my eye some years ago. His style of lighting is especially appealing, bringing his broad experience as a studio and commercial photographer to the underwater world. When I found that my schedule allowed me to join him at Hornby Island to dive with Steller sea lions, I jumped at the chance in spite of my lack of experience in cold water. He gave me lots of great advice beforehand. Armed with a new drysuit I joined Richard and his group of friends at Hornby Island Diving. Rob and Amanda Zielinski run the lodge and dive operation on their property at the waters edge on beautiful Hornby Island. Rob took us diving in his comfortable, quick boat at dive spots just a few minutes from the dock. Amanda runs the lodge where we experienced superb food and lots of peace and quiet to keep us comfortable and warm between dives. Hornby Island Diving is a excellent operation, one of the best I have seen, which is especially important given the weather and water temps can be tough in winter. We had overcast skies most days with a couple of blue sky days, very little wind and calm seas. Water temps were right around 45F the entire week. Water visibility was great, relatively clean with a beautiful emerald green color. We dove twice a day with lunch between dives. I took a day off midweek to make a couple really beautiful hikes on Hornby Island. Over 6 days of diving I made 10 dives at Norris Rocks (and a couple dives elsewhere) and shot thousands of photographs, trying to squeek out a few good images in the chaos of action, bubbles, flippers and teeth that really portray how beautiful these huge creatures are. Gradually some keepers emerged, a couple on each dive, and in the end I was pleased with the images I made. These are some of my favorites. I am planning to return in 2019 for more. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32661
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32662
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32663
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32664
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32670
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32679
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32685
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater,  a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater, a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32695
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32757
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32675
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32687
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32737
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32777
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32788
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32789
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

California Sea Lions at Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Baja California, Mexico

Mexico, Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Photography

California sea lions underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

California sea lions underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31205
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

In October, Tracy and I joined our friends Mike and Sherry, Skip, Shirley, Barb and Walt for 9 wonderful days diving in the Sea of Cortez around La Paz. It was the first time Tracy and I had been diving together for any length of time in 18 years. It was so much fun to be back in the water together and the Sea of Cortez in Fall is about as relaxed, easy, warm and fun as can be. Los Islotes, a small island just north of Espiritu Santo, is famous for its rookery of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). I love diving there, more than perhaps any other place in the Sea of Cortez, and in particular like being there early or late in the day when there are no day boats around. (I could have spent the entire trip at Islotes, but fortunately for the others we did venture north to some relatively unexplored, colorful and fishy reefs that Mike has found over the years and keeps under wraps.) Islotes was as fishy as I have ever seen it, with enormous dense polarized schools of sardines along with pargo and other larger reef fish which the Sea of Cortez used to have in abundance but which are now harder to find. Los Islotes does have some legal protections against fishing, and these protections help to keep the waters around Islotes reasonably full of big fish and other marine life. But Islotes is also under threat of illegal fishing, and it is only through vigilance by those who care about a healthy Sea of Cortez that the laws that are on the books will mean something. Seawatch has made some progress on this front, but its difficult to keep eyes on Islotes 24-hours a day.

Here are some of my favorite images from our October dives around Islotes. I don’t keep a log any more but I would guess I spent about 30 hours underwater just photographing the sea lions, really getting to know several adult groups and having a great time watching how one bull in particular would manage his harem of females over the course of 4-5 days, not to mention the 30+ pups that would play with us at the edge of his territory. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California sea lion underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

California sea lion underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31206
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion underwater in beautiful sunset light, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion underwater in beautiful sunset light
Image ID: 31208
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Young California sea lion pups underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

Young California sea lion pups underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31209
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion blowing underwater bubbles as it stands on its flippers, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion blowing underwater bubbles as it stands on its flippers
Image ID: 31210
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Blue-bronze sea chub schooling, Sea of Cortez, Kyphosus analogus

Blue-bronze sea chub schooling, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 31213
Species: Blue-bronze Chub, Kyphosus analogus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion and school of sardines underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Zalophus californianus

California sea lion and school of sardines underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California
Image ID: 31220
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Young sea lion hides in an underwater crevice, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Young sea lion hides in an underwater crevice
Image ID: 31226
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sardines and Scad, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Sardines and Scad, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31246
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion harem of females, underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion harem of females, underwater
Image ID: 31247
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Large adult male sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Large adult male sea lion underwater
Image ID: 31248
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sport Diver Cover, June 2015, Sea Lion in the Sea of Cortez

Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Photography

I love diving in the Sea of Cortez in the Fall. The water is warm, the weather is often serene, the diving easy and fun. And there are some amazing rookeries of sea lions, including the world famous Los Islotes island in the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve. So I was pleased when a photograph from my last visit to the Sea of Cortez ended up on this month’s cover of Sport Diver. Thanks Sport Diver and Seapics who arranged the photo use! If you like this cute sealion, be sure to see more Sea Lion Photos and more photos from the Sea of Cortez. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Killer Whales (Orca) attacking California Sea Lion

Marine Life, Sea Lion

I saw Wild Kingdom in action yesterday: killer whales preying upon California sea lions. Classified as Biggs transient orcas, these individuals are well known (CA51) for terrorizing other marine mammals along the Southern California coast. “Biggs transients” are one of four distinct populations (some insist they are species) of killer whales, characterized by predating upon marine mammals and occasionally sea birds as opposed to ground fish or salmon as do other coastal orcas. Coming upon the five killer whales as they finished toying with and consuming one predation (likely a sea lion), we watched them proceed to take at least two more sea lions over the next hour. In each of the following photos there is a sea lion although in some it is hard to find. The first image depicts the first hit that one of the adult orcas put upon the sea lion. I knew it was coming but still nearly did not get the lens on the sea lion in time. Several other hits took place and the sea lion was clearly panicky and stunned. In the third image, one of the females passes by the sea lion but what is not obvious is that there are two other orcas just below and in front of the sea lion, the pinniped is literally surrounded. There were two subadult orca in the group and it may have been a case of the adults allowing the subadults to learn how to hunt; in practical terms the pack was toying with its doomed prey. In the fifth photo you can see how close to shore this took place. In the final three images, the sea lion is 1) barely able to avoid being pushed under by one of the females, 2) hammered sideways by one of the adults, and 3) gasps for breath before being finally pulled under for the last time and consumed. I don’t photograph killer whales often, but have photographed other whale species including humpback whales and blue whales and some dolphins: Cetacean Photos. For my diving buddies who might be wondering: this was purely a topside trip. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30428
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30429
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30427
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30430
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30431
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30432
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30433
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30425
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30426
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

California Sea Lions at Los Islotes, Baja California, Mexico

Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Los Islotes, the small island just off the northern end of Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez, is my favorite place in the world for photographing California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus). These wonderful pinnipeds are very comfortable with the presence of, and famous for the willingness to interact with, divers in the water. Shooting portraits of sea lions is a piece of cake, the photos almost take themselves. Plus the diving tends to be shallow and calm so bottom times of a two hours can be easily had. Here are a few of my picks from my last visit to Los Islotes a few years ago. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27418
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27423
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion underwater playing with sea star, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater playing with sea star.
Image ID: 27428
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27420
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27421
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Los Islotes is a small island at the northern end of Isla Espiritu Santo, near La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. Espiritu Santo Island and Partida Island are two beautiful desert islands, scalloped with gorgeous white sand beaches. Bird nest on their rugged slopes, and cardon cacti grow in abundance. All three of these islands are part of the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, named a UNESCO Biosphere due to the area’s biodiversity and beauty. I have had the good fortune to cruise along both shores of Espiritu Santo and Partida but most of my time has been spent at Isla Los Islotes, diving and relaxing. In addition to the sea lions, these waters are full of many Sea of Cortez fishes. However, when I am at Los Islotes I basically ignore all else and just enjoy my time swimming with and photographing los lobos marinos.

California Sea Lions, Coronado Islands, Mexico

Islas Coronado, Mexico, Sea Lion, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Some of my favorite diving with California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) has taken place at Mexico’s Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado). The Coronados are a small group of undeveloped rocky islands just offshore of Tijuana, Mexico and only about an hour boat ride south of San Diego. Seemingly barren, the islands are in fact loaded with marine life, including the clown princes of the Pacific, sea lions. Here are a few of my better photos of these noble and beautiful creatures. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California sea lions, Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lions, Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 02160
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion.
Image ID: 02943
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion, Coronados Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion, Coronados Islands.
Image ID: 00956
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion pup starving during 1997-8 El Nino event, Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion pup starving during 1997-8 El Nino event, Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 02417
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion colony, Los Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion colony, Los Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 03077
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

International Conservation Photography Awards 2012

Environmental Problems, Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Art Wolfe hosts the biennial International Conservation Photography Awards (“ICP Awards”). One of my images was honored in the 2010 edition of the competition, so I decided to try again this year. My photograph of a young California sea lion entangled in monofilament fishing line, taken in the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve in Baja California, was selected in the “Natural Environment At Risk” category, which seems quite fitting given the competition is meant to highlight conservation and issues relating to the natural world. Thank you Art and ICP Awards! To see all the recognized images — and you should since there are some spectacular photos in this year’s competition — check out: http://icpawards.com/2012winners.php

California sea lion injured by fishing line, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion injured by fishing line
Image ID: 27419
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Wildlife Entanglement: Sea Lion and Monofilament, Pelican and Shopping Bag

Environmental Problems, Sea Lion, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Photos of Wildlife Entanglement in Plastic

Unfortunately, I have had a number of opportunities to photograph wildlife entangled in plastic debris. Plastic Debris. We make it, we use it and then we leave it behind. This stuff is killing animals and causing problems everywhere. I find it dismaying every time I come across abandoned netting (ghost nets) or monofilament fishing line in the ocean. Often the monofilament is wrapped around a sea lion’s neck as in these photos, or tangled on a reef where it can snag passing fish or invertebrates. I’ve also come across some animals entangled in plastic shopping bags, such as the brown pelican pictured below. At least plastic shopping bags degrade somewhat when exposed to sunlight, so those animals stand a chance of recovery provided they do not eat the bag in an effort to remove it. Alas, in all three cases shown below I considered how to assist the animal pictured but no opportunity presented itself.

California sea lion injured by fishing line, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion injured by fishing line
Image ID: 27419
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion, with monofiliment cut, Zalophus californianus, Monterey

California sea lion, with monofiliment cut.
Image ID: 00958
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Monterey, California, USA

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck.  This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican's neck.  Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck. This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican’s neck. Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year.
Image ID: 22572
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican, entangled in monofilament fishing line, showing winter mating plumage colors, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican, entangled in monofilament fishing line, showing winter mating plumage colors
Image ID: 28966
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Baja California, Mexico

Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Los Islotes is a small island at the northern end of Isla Espiritu Santo, near La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. Espiritu Santo Island and Partida Island are two beautiful desert islands, scalloped with gorgeous white sand beaches. Bird nest on their rugged slopes, and cardon cacti grow in abundance. All three of these islands are part of the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, named a UNESCO Biosphere due to the area’s biodiversity and beauty. I have had the good fortune to cruise along both shores of Espiritu Santo and Partida but most of my time has been spent at Isla Los Islotes, diving and relaxing. These waters are full of many Sea of Cortez fishes, and Los Islotes itself is home to a renowned colony of California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus). I am a real lover of sea lions and fur seals, and spend as much time diving with them as I can, so when I am at Los Islotes I basically ignore all else and just enjoy my time with these gregarious and charming animals. Here are a few recent photos of Los Islotes, the sea lions, Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo. Thanks for looking!

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27424
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Los Islotes Island, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Los Islotes Island, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
Image ID: 27364
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Yellow-tailed surgeonfish schooling, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico, Prionurus laticlavius

Yellow-tailed surgeonfish schooling, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
Image ID: 27564
Species: Yellow-tailed surgeonfish, Prionurus laticlavius
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Isla Partida, Sea of Cortez coastal scenic panorama, near La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, part of the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve

Isla Partida, Sea of Cortez coastal scenic panorama, near La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, part of the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve.
Image ID: 27358
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California Sea Lion at Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Guadalupe Island, Sea Lion

I’ve been photographing California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) for about 20 years and still do not have the perfect image of one. They are a lot of fun to dive with, but are notoriously fickle about staying put and posing for the camera. In addition, the fur of a seal lion can at once absorb all the light my strobes put out and yet can reflect sunlight and produce hot spots in the image. So, I’ll just have to continue diving with them and trying to make more sea lion photographs. This photo is one of my favorites. It was taken at Isla Afuera at the south end of Guadalupe Island in the mid-90s on one of our 10-day exploratory diving trips. We dove all around the island, finding new underwater sites that had probably never been seen before except by fish, turtles and sharks. This was some years before the shark diving that has made the island so popular now. California sea lions and Guadalupe fur seals were our nearly-constant companions on these dives. Here, an inquisitive juvenile lines up alongside Lorna McMurray. This image was used as the frontispiece for the excellent National Geographic book “Wild Ocean” by Dr. Sylvia Earle and Henry Wolcott.

California sea lion and diver consider each other, underwater in the clear ocean water of Guadalupe Island, Zalophus californianus, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

California sea lion and diver consider each other, underwater in the clear ocean water of Guadalupe Island.
Image ID: 02251
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico