Are Mass Sea Lion Deaths Fulfilling End-Times Prophecy?A record 2,250 sea lions, mostly pups, have washed up starving and stranded on Southern California beaches so far this year, a worsening phenomenon blamed on warming seas in the region that have disrupted the marine mammals’ food supply. The latest tally, reported on Monday by the National Marine Fisheries Service, is 20 times the level of strandings averaged for the same three-month period over the past decade and twice the number documented in 2013, the previous worst winter season recorded for Southern California sea lions. Scientists believe the animals are suffering from a scarcity of natural prey that has forced nursing mothers to venture farther out to sea for food, leaving their young behind to fend for themselves for longer periods of time. The shift in the food chain around the marine mammals’ principal rookeries off Southern California is believed to be triggered by warming waters linked to unusually weak winds along the West Coast. Stronger winds normally help pull nutrient-rich cooler water from the depths of the Pacific closer to the surface, and with it larger supplies of sardines, smelt, squid and other prey for the sea lions, said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the Marine Fisheries Service. Experts theorize this winter’s mild El Nino effect, which alters ocean currents and temperatures, may be compounding the food shortage for Southern California sea lions. MORE