Sea lions sickened by chlorine poisoning return to ocean

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LOS ANGELES -- 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., KTLA reported.

“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.

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