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Environment and Energy

Some marine mammals affected by Refugio oil spill still being treated

Sea World

Three months after the Refugio spill on Santa Barbara County's Gaviota Coast, sea lions, elephant and harbor seals that came in contact with the crude oil are still being rehabilitated.

A few of the marine mammals were released back into the Pacific this week by experts in San Diego.

Senior Animal Care Specialist Nick Northcraft works for Sea World which is part of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. He says some of the animals had unrelated problems when they were rescued.

An unusual die-off of marine mammals has been taking place this year, so those animals were already unhealthy.

"We have to make sure that they are healthy before we're going to send them back out so that they don't just come right back," said Northcraft. "So, in addition to washing the oil off, we also have to make them healthy and then fatten them up so they have a buffer so they can find food out in the wild."

There are still eleven marine mammals connected to the spill that are being treated. Northcraft says those animals will likely be released in the next month or so.

Credit Sea World
California sea lions in a holding cage on a boat, headed out on the Pacific Ocean. Three California sea lions returned to the wild off the California coast near San Diego on August 16, after wildlife care experts determined they were ready for release.