Sea lions sickened by chlorine poisoning released back into Pacific Ocean

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Sea Lions Poisoned By Chlorine Released Back Into The Ocean
By KTLA5

More than a dozen sea lions that were sickened in April when an intruder contaminated the water system at Pacific Marine Mammal Center were released back into the ocean in Laguna Beach on Tuesday morning.

In front of a large crowd of spectators, the 14 sea lions scampered through the sand on the beach and into the cold ocean water after being released by the Laguna Beach-based mammal center about 8:30 a.m.

17 PHOTOS
Sea lion rescues
See Gallery
Sea lions sickened by chlorine poisoning released back into Pacific Ocean
GOLETA, CA - MAY 22: California Sea Lions jump out of the water at Refugio State Beach on May 22, 2015 in Goleta, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency after over 100,000 gallons of oil spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about nine miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 22: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, a California sea lion affected by the Santa Barbara oil spill is washed by members of SeaWorld's Rescue Team at SeaWorld San Diego's Oiled Wildlife Care Center May 22, 2015 in San Diego, California. Shown in the photo is the animal's back flipper. The animal's condition is guarded, as the team continues to keep him hydrated and wash all the oil off. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 20: A California brown pelican and California sea lion fish in oil-contaminated water from an inland oil spill near Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
A jogger passes a stranded adult sea lion in Laguna Beach, California, on March 30, 2015. Record numbers of starving baby sea lions continue to wash ashore in California and the problem has shown no sign of abating. According to the New York Times, experts suspect that unusually warm waters are causing food to become more scarce, causing the mother to leave their pups on their own while the mother hunts for food. Left on their own, the pups can not find food and become sick and emaciated, swimming to shore to prevent themselves from drowning. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
A stranded adult sea lion is seen in the sand in Laguna Beach, California, on March 30, 2015. Record numbers of starving baby sea lions continue to wash ashore in California and the problem has shown no sign of abating. According to the New York Times, experts suspect that unusually warm waters are causing food to become more scarce, causing the mother to leave their pups on their own while the mother hunts for food. Left on their own, the pups can not find food and become sick and emaciated, swimming to shore to prevent themselves from drowning. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescued sea lion rests in a holding pen at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, on March 30, 2015. Record numbers of starving baby sea lions continue to wash ashore in California and the problem has shown no sign of abating. According to the New York Times, experts suspect that unusually warm waters are causing food to become more scarce, causing the mother to leave their pups on their own while the mother hunts for food. Left on their own, the pups can not find food and become sick and emaciated, swimming to shore to prevent themselves from drowning. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescued sea lions rest in a holding pen at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, on March 30, 2015. Record numbers of starving baby sea lions continue to wash ashore in California and the problem has shown no sign of abating. According to the New York Times, experts suspect that unusually warm waters are causing food to become more scarce, causing the mother to leave their pups on their own while the mother hunts for food. Left on their own, the pups can not find food and become sick and emaciated, swimming to shore to prevent themselves from drowning. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescued sea lion rests in a holding pen at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, on March 30, 2015. Record numbers of starving baby sea lions continue to wash ashore in California and the problem has shown no sign of abating. According to the New York Times, experts suspect that unusually warm waters are causing food to become more scarce, causing the mother to leave their pups on their own while the mother hunts for food. Left on their own, the pups can not find food and become sick and emaciated, swimming to shore to prevent themselves from drowning. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescued sea lion rests in a holding pen at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, on March 30, 2015. Record numbers of starving baby sea lions continue to wash ashore in California and the problem has shown no sign of abating. According to the New York Times, experts suspect that unusually warm waters are causing food to become more scarce, causing the mother to leave their pups on their own while the mother hunts for food. Left on their own, the pups can not find food and become sick and emaciated, swimming to shore to prevent themselves from drowning. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescued sea lions rest in a holding pen at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, on March 30, 2015. Record numbers of starving baby sea lions continue to wash ashore in California and the problem has shown no sign of abating. According to the New York Times, experts suspect that unusually warm waters are causing food to become more scarce, causing the mother to leave their pups on their own while the mother hunts for food. Left on their own, the pups can not find food and become sick and emaciated, swimming to shore to prevent themselves from drowning. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescued sea lions rest in a holding pen at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, on March 30, 2015. Record numbers of starving baby sea lions continue to wash ashore in California and the problem has shown no sign of abating. According to the New York Times, experts suspect that unusually warm waters are causing food to become more scarce, causing the mother to leave their pups on their own while the mother hunts for food. Left on their own, the pups can not find food and become sick and emaciated, swimming to shore to prevent themselves from drowning. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
SAUSALITO, CA - MARCH 18: A recovering sea lion pup eats herring in an enclosure at the Marine Mammal Center on March 18, 2015 in Sausalito, California. For the third winter in a row, hundreds of sick and starving California sea lions are washing up on California shores, with over 1,800 found and treated at rehabilitation centers throughout the state since the beginning of the year. The Marine Mammal Center is currently caring for 224 of the emaciated pups. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAUSALITO, CA - MARCH 18: A sick and malnourished sea lion pup sits in an enclosure at the Marine Mammal Center on March 18, 2015 in Sausalito, California. For the third winter in a row, hundreds of sick and starving California sea lions are washing up on California shores, with over 1,800 found and treated at rehabilitation centers throughout the state since the beginning of the year. The Marine Mammal Center is currently caring for 224 of the emaciated pups. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAUSALITO, CA - MARCH 18: A recovering sea lion pup sits in an enclosure at the Marine Mammal Center on March 18, 2015 in Sausalito, California. For the third winter in a row, hundreds of sick and starving California sea lions are washing up on California shores, with over 1,800 found and treated at rehabilitation centers throughout the state since the beginning of the year. The Marine Mammal Center is currently caring for 224 of the emaciated pups. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAUSALITO, CA - MARCH 18: A sick and malnourished sea lion pup sits in an enclosure at the Marine Mammal Center on March 18, 2015 in Sausalito, California. For the third winter in a row, hundreds of sick and starving California sea lions are washing up on California shores, with over 1,800 found and treated at rehabilitation centers throughout the state since the beginning of the year. The Marine Mammal Center is currently caring for 224 of the emaciated pups. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Sea Lions rest on a buoy at the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, Baja California Sur state, Mexico on March 3, 2015. AFP PHOTO/OMAR TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"Things went amazingly well; all the animals went out," said Keith Matassa of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. "It was such a great thing to see the closure and see those animals return to the wild healthy."

Amid a record-breaking year for sea lion strandings, Tuesday's release was the largest such event in the center's history, officials said.

The sea lions became sick after someone entered the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in late April and contaminated one of the pools with chlorine, according to the Laguna Beach Police Department.

The contamination left 15 of the 17 sea lions that were being treated in the pool with varying degrees of corneal ulcerations. The animals had been just a day or two from release before the poisoning incident, Matassa said.

"The chlorine incident — very sad, because they didn't ask for it. They didn't ask for any of this. They had already been near death when they came into the center for the first time, and they got all the way through that ... and then someone came in and did this horrific incident," Matassa said. "All they wanted to do was get back out to the wild."

According to police, the attack marked the first known assault to take place at the facility, which is a nonprofit center that services coastal Orange County.

An arrest has not been made in the case, and the investigation remained "open," according to Matassa.

Anyone with information about the April incident was urged to contact Detectives David Gensemer or Abe Ocampo at 949-497-0377 or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hotline at 800-853-1964.

KTLA's Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners