Sea Lions Arguing

by | Jul 31, 2019

This picture was shot in Moss Beach landing a few years ago. There was at one point a public dock that was taken over by a bachelor pod of California Sea Lions, who used it to hang out, sleep, and argue with one another. I spent many a day down there watching them and photographing the action.

Ultimately as you might expect, the weight of the animals broke the dock. I showed up one day and the middle third was missing because it’d sunk. Later, the end piece disappeared after it broke free and floated out into the harbor. Today, the rest of the dock is fenced off, so the sea lions have moved on.

If you head to Moss Landing, though, you’ll realize they aren’t gone, because you hear them. Instead, they’ve moved onto other docks and areas where the boats are stored. I expect the nearby boat owners don’t see this as an improvement.

What makes this one of my favorite shots is that while two of the sea lions are actively yelling at each other for encroaching a common space, there’s that third one with a flipper up and a distinct Waiter! Check Please! feeling to him.

FWIW, while this location had reasonably close access to the Sea Lions, it was really tricky to shoot because the light was invariably behind them somewhere, so I always hoped for heavy marine layer overcast to even the light and dampen the harsh shadows.

And while there was a lot of yelling and posturing and threatening, rarely did fights seem to escalate into real violence. Scarring was common among the hides of the sea lions there, but many of the scars I saw were shark related, but it was clear that sometimes, there is biting and chomping going on. And I expect this comes as no surprise, but when the wind was just right, the smell coming from that dock was amazing.