California sea lions (Carnivora: Otariidae: Zalophus californianus) are relatively common inhabitants of the Pacific coast of North America. They breed in the summer along southern California and the Baja peninsula of Mexico. After breeding ends many migrate long distances, ranging from British Columbia to southern Mexico.
These marine mammals are excellent swimmers. They can reach speeds of up to 20 mph (32 km/hour) and dive to 900 feet (274 m) in pursuit of prey and escape from predators. They feed on a variety of fish, squid, and octupuses and are preyed upon by orcas and large sharks.
When not breeding or hunting, these sea lions can often be seen resting on beaches, rocks, and man-made structures like docks and buoys. They tend to congregate more near areas of human habitation, perhaps because of the abundance of artificial resting places.
Historically California sea lions were hunted for their meat and hides and later on were trapped for use in zoos, aquariums, and circuses. Since 1972 they’ve been protected in the United States by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, although some hunting permits are granted in limited cases where the sea lions harm salmon populations.