The sea lions that are among the more authentic attractions on San Francisco’s touristy Pier 39 have suddenly, and inexplicably, disappeared. The beasts showed up at the wooden docks alongside the pier unexpectedly 20 years ago, and in winter as many as 300 would lie around, attracting crowds. But since, in theory, sea lions are migratory, “there really isn’t a reason to be looking for them,” a marine biologist tells Wired.
Warming El Niño conditions could be to blame, though a local weatherman says the impact on the bay has been slight. And the sea lions haven’t returned to the area just outside the Golden Gate Strait where they’re thought to have come from. Meantime, while tourists are disappointed, local fishermen don’t mind. “They’re cute when they’re in here lying on the docks by Pier 39, but they’re not too cute out in the ocean when they’re stealing your livelihood.”