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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.
Sea - Lions - Attraction - Business - Sheila
"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.
Attitude - Fishing - Community - Shoot - 'em
"The general attitude in the fishing community is this: "Shoot 'em,'" said Paul O'Berry, 31, a commercial squid fisherman based in San Pedro. "But we don't because we'd be hauled to jail for that."
These clashing perceptions overlap in coastal currents where sea lions, once hunted nearly to extinction for their pelts, have flourished under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. In 1964, the California sea lion population was about 30,000. They now number a tad over 257,000 in an environment that scientists say can only sustain about 300,000.
San - Francisco - Resilience - Popularity - Creatures
While San Francisco touts the resilience and popularity of these creatures, harbor communities from Seattle to San Diego decry their voracious appetites and habit of wrenching fish off hooks with the jaw power of multiple Dobermans.
Let a sea lion get a flipper in the door, marina operators contend, and they'll take over the place.
Southern - California - Fishermen - Sea - Lions
Several Southern California fishermen have been convicted and fined for killing sea lions. Sea lions all too often wash ashore shot to death or suffering bullet wounds.
Officials in Washington,...
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