West Coast
All-male California sea lions sunbathe on the docks at Pier 39 in San Francisco. Each winter since 1990, an ever-growing band of the sea lions has converged on the docks there. TNS

CA - Sea lions are cash cows in the Bay Area. Farther south, fishermen say, ‘Shoot ’em’

Sea lions are increasingly living in parallel universes along the California coast, a disparity best observed amid the noisy, stinking spectacle that rolls out daily at San Francisco’s Pier 39 shopping center.

There, hundreds of these enormous, mostly male California sea lions bark, defecate, urinate and regurgitate, but are immensely popular with tourists. As a result, the blubber boys are treated like royalty.

“The sea lions are a godsend: a natural attraction that’s phenomenal for business,” Sheila Chandor, Pier 39 harbormaster, said on a recent weekday as tourists snapped selfies against a backdrop of sea lions piled up like cordwood on docks.

Elsewhere in California, sea lions are pariahs. The animals that head south for their summer breeding season are sometimes welcomed with arrows, harpoons, electric cattle prods, gunfire, bombs and fish laced with chemicals.

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