MORRO BAY, Calif. (KERO) — A marine mammal center in Morro Bay is expressing concern about the rising number of negative interactions between people and marine life.
Visitors take in the sights and sounds of Morro Bay. Watching sea otters frolic in the water along the Embarcadero.
"You can see them right up close standing here and not get too close and of course, I always carry binoculars so I can see them up close without bothering them," said Janet Lenart who was visiting from Seattle.
But lately, too many in San Luis Obispo County are doing just the opposite.
"We've seen an increase in negative interactions. We saw a tripling in San Luis Obispo County, from 2020 to 2021," said Aliah Meza with The Marine Mammal Center.
According to The Marine Mammal Center, they're seeing everything from people dragging animals from the water, touching or poking them, as well as crowding them for pictures. Many times causing serious consequences.
"Often states of malnutrition, injuries, unfortunately often times with entanglements with fishing gear and foreign matter.
"In response, the center is now beginning to provide outreach to the community in an effort to educate the public about the importance of safe wildlife viewing," said Dave Alley.
"Never interact with them physically. Always keep your distance. Resist the temptation to touch them, to pick them up, to get too close. Use the zoom on your camera," added Steve Levine.
For wildlife that are injured, the center is able to rescue many.
"We were able to provide triage emergency care, and stabilization before it went to our main hospital in Sausalito for the rest of its rehabilitation," said Meza.
With the ultimate goal of returning it back to its natural home in the ocean.