1. Stellar Stellers


Steller sea lion populations worldwide are declining, specifically along our coast, with many possible reasons including disease, predators, competing for food and space, pollution, and other human related factors. Learn all about how the sea lion research at the aquarium has helped to understand these wild populations!

Image result for steller sea lion vancouver aquarium Steller Sea Lions

Credit: Andrew Trites

In our first JBC session this year, we delve into all things Steller! We begin by exploring the differences between the seals and sea lions here at the aquarium, making observations just like a scientist! Then, we will brainstorm some threats to sea lions and the conservation efforts put into place, and discuss how scientific research has played an important role in understanding sea lions. Finally, we will put our knowledge into practice, and use scientific methods to learn just like real sea lion biologists!

What did we do today?

  • Made some observations and comparison between the harbour seals and Steller sea lions here at the aquarium.
  • Learned why it is important to learn about sea lions – they have experienced an 80% decline in population between 1970-2002!
  • Brainstormed some conservation efforts currently in place to help protect sea lions.
  • Discussed the importance of research in understanding wild populations of sea lions!
  • Performed 3 experiments just like real sea lion biologists…
    • Aerial surveys: used to determine how large the sea lion population is!
    • Owl pellet classification: researchers use similar methods with sea lion scat to determine which types of fish and marine organisms sea lions are consuming!
    • Herring dissection: an important part of understanding if nutritional requirements of sea lions are being met is to explore the nutrition itself!

A crowded Steller sea lion haulout. Two Steller sea lions dive off the rocks into the ocean

Credit: Andrew Trites

Questions to ask your Jr. Biologists

  1. What are some threats that sea lions are facing every day? (boat/ship strikes, contaminants/pollutants, habitat degradation, illegal hunting/shooting, offshore oil and gas exploration, interactions with fisheries (entanglement, hooks, injury, competition for food resources), hunted (for fur, meat, oil), killing for bounty, relocation, predation by killer whales, disease)
  2. What are some of the techniques our marine mammal trainers use to identify our sea lions? (the biggest one is actually by the shape of their eyes!)
  3. Why do researchers look at animal poop? What information can it provide? (it gives great insight into what type of food the animal is consuming – for sea lions, you can look at what fish and other marine organisms the sea lions are eating, and see if it is related to their population decline!)
  4. What is a pinniped? (fin or flipper-footed, have front and rear flippers, includes seals, sea lions, and walruses!)
  5. What are some things we can do to help prevent Steller sea lion population decline? (public education, cleaning up the environment (Shoreline Cleanup!), choosing sustainable seafood options (Ocean Wise seafood), reduce how much plastic we use in our day to day life!)


See your Jr. Biologists in action here!

Do you have questions for Club Volunteers or our Coordinator, Hailey? Ask away on our Discussion Board!


Be a part of the solution to the Plastic Problem! As we saw in some of the videos, sea lions and other marine animals are suffering because of the giant Plastic Problem! The easiest thing to do is to use reusable every day – such as reusable bags and water bottles.

We banned the bottle and so can you! Check out our story of how the Vancouver Aquarium no longer uses single use water bottles, Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) to Vancouver Aquarium, and look for opportunities in your school day, work day or sports practice to BYOB too!

Also, check out this great Do-It-Yourself tote bag made from an old t-shirt instead of buying plastic bags for your groceries! Protect the environment in style!

Learning Objectives

Observe the similarities and differences between sea lions and seals.

Identify pinniped (seal, sea lions, and walruses – fin-footed!) adaptations to become efficient swimmers.

Classify the different threats to sea lions, and discover the conservation efforts in place to protect sea lion populations.

Apply different research techniques used to study sea lions to understand Ocean Wise research.

Continue to 2. Caring for Critters »