The Marine Mammal Center

Conservation in North America

About the Organization

The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit rescue and rehabilitation hospital in Sausalito, California that cares for sick, injured and orphaned marine mammals, primarily California sea lions, northern elephant seals and harbor seals.

Since 1975, the Center has rescued more than 18,000 animals along 600 miles of California’s coastline. In addition, the hospital educates over 100,000 children and adults each year about marine mammals and their important role as indicators of ocean and human health. Through animal care work, research and education, The Marine Mammal Center aims to inspire marine life conservation and nurture ocean stewardship.

The Conservation Challenge

Marine mammals need rescue for many different reasons, including malnourishment, separation, entanglements, and diseases - issues which compound on already struggling populations. Nearly 10% of the animals rescued have been impacted by human interaction and hazards like net and fishing line entanglements, gun shots, illegal pick-ups, and boat strikes. Climate change, and the resulting effects on the ocean’s water levels, temperature, salinity, and pH, alters marine mammal food sources as well as creates a potentially hazardous environment. Disease and bio toxins are significant concerns in marine mammal conservation. Sewage and freshwater runoff from urban areas into the ocean feed blooms of toxic algae, which produce byproducts that accumulate in the fish that marine mammals eat. Covering more than 70% of our planet, the ocean is Earth’s primary life-support system - and these animals are critical bellwethers of its health.

Conservation Approach


As a member of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, a network of authorized organizations, The Marine Mammal Center has rescued more than 18,000 marine mammals along 600 miles of Central and Northern California coastline and inland areas. They are able to provide a humane response to these animals that otherwise may not have a chance at survival. With a team of dedicated staff and more than 1,000 volunteers, they provide the medical care needed to get as many of their patients as they can back to their ocean homes.
Rehabilitation and Release
Every year, on average, The Marine Mammal Center helps approximately 600 to 800 distressed marine mammals by rescuing and rehabilitating them at their hospital facility in the Marin Headlands. Husbandry is the core of their rehabilitation efforts through proper nutrition, handling techniques, hygiene and sanitation, housing, disease prevention, and stress reduction. Release back to the wild is the ultimate goal for every patient at The Marine Mammal Center, which is evident through the hours of service and hard work by volunteers and staff. To be released, animals must pass final examinations, and must be able to successfully forage for fish. All patients receive a flipper tag for identification and some that are released may receive satellite or radio tags so their progress can be tracked if they are re-sighted.
Science and Research
Helping marine mammals in need along 600 miles of northern and central California coastline offers The Marine Mammal Center unique and valuable opportunities to understand the health of the animals they treat and their connection to the health of the oceans in general. They partner with leading scientists and other professionals in order to learn from the patients in their care - patients from healthy, endangered, and at-risk populations - and to expand and advance scientific knowledge, thus enhancing understanding of the health of our oceans and the implications for human health. By doing so, The Marine Mammal Center contributes to identifying the causes of marine mammal standings, identifying and understanding the health issues of their patients, determining the efficacy of rehabbing, revealing the effects of humans and other stressors on the marine environment, and ultimately understanding of the state of our greatest resource - the oceans.
Each year the education programs of The Marine Mammal Center teach thousands of students and the public about marine mammals and the urgent need for ocean stewardship. Field trips, tours, classroom presentations, and teacher resources are all avenues through which The Marine Mammal Center reaches out to the public and brings awareness to their Mission.

Oakland Zoo Takes Action

Oakland Zoo generously supports the Mission and efforts of the Marine Mammal Center to rescue and rehabilitate injured, stranded, and orphaned marine mammals. 

Staff Volunteers
The Zoo has encouraged and supported the work of our own skilled staff to assist The Marine Mammal Center both during and after work hours in their rescue, rehabilitation, and fundraising efforts.
The Zoo has raised funds through our conservation fund to help support the important work of The Marine Mammal Center.

You Can Take Action Too

  • To limit the number of potential entanglements, cut plastic six-pack rings with scissors, and reduce your use of plastic bottles, grocery bags, and other single-use disposable items.
  • Choose sustainable seafood and help sustain marine mammal populations!  
  • Participate in beach, street, or park cleanups.
  • Keep your own watershed clean by being careful about what goes down the storm drain where you live. Anything that goes down the outside storm drain ends up in a creek, then eventually the ocean.
  • Wash your car at a car wash where waste water is treated. If you wash your car at home, do it on the lawn with biodegradable soap. If you change your car’s oil at home, recycle the used oil instead of pouring it down the drain.
  • Do not use toxic pesticides.
  • Become a member of The Marine Mammal Center:
  • Join the Marine Mammal Center’s annual Run for the Seals to support the care of sick and injured seals and sea lions! 
  • If you find a stranded or marine mammal in distress follow the advice below and call 415-289-SEAL.
What to Do If You Find a Stranded Marine Mammal
  • Don’t Touch and do not pick up, pour water on or feed the animal!: They are wild animals and can bite. They also are easily stressed by humans.
  • Do not return the animal to the water: Seals and sea lions temporarily “haul-out” on land to rest. Harbor seal mothers often leave their pups ashore while they’re feeding at sea. A beached whale, dolphin, or porpoise should be reported immediately.
  • Observe: Observe the animal from a distance of at least 50 feet. Keep people and dogs away.
  • Describe: Note physical characteristics such as size, presence of external earflaps, and fur color. This helps rescuers determine the species and what rescue equipment and volunteers are needed.
  • Condition: Note the animal’s condition. Is it weak and underweight? Are there any open wounds?
  • Identification: Does the animal have any obvious identification tags or markings?
  • Location: Determine the exact location of the animal in order to provide accurate directions. We cannot rescue an animal if we cannot find it!

Call The Marine Mammal Center with as much information as you have! Our Response Hotlines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In Mendocino through San Mateo Counties:

(415) 289-SEAL (7325)
In Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties:
(831) 633-6298
In San Luis Obispo County:
(805) 771-6298



P.O. Box 5238

9777 Golf Links Road Oakland, CA 94605