Gaze at the gregarious sea lions setting records in San Francisco

Pier 39 hasn't seen this many sea lions since the early 1990s.
a sea lion on its front legs on a pier
San Francisco's Pier 39 has attracted a record number of sea lions this year, according to officials. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images

Nothing prepares you for mating like a seafood buffet. Well, at least if you’re a sea lion.

A massive school of anchovy in the San Francisco Bay has lured approximately 1,700 sea lions to Pier 39 near the city’s Fisherman’s Wharf district. Not since the early 1990s has the area seen this many sea lions, Sheila Candor, Harbormaster at Pier 39, told the Associated Press. In recent decades, less than a thousand sea lions flopped onto the pier each spring.

Pier 39 is a sea lion rest stop of sorts, a place to fill up on anchovies and herring before heading south to the Channel Islands for mating season. The pier docks use three times the floatation support as normal docks to support the weight of the blubbery sea beasts.

If you’re planning to visit this year’s herd of sea lions, prepare for a chorus of loud barking and frequent displays of sun-basked lounging and fin-slap bickering. And if you can’t make it to San Francisco, enjoy these photos we collected.

a pile of brown sea lions rest
Piles and piles of sea lions gather on Pier 39. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
overhead view of a dozen docks covered in sea lions
An aerial view provides a different perspective of the California sea lions. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
docks covered in sea lions in front of amusement part
California sea lions lounge on docks at Pier 39 on May 05, 2024 in San Francisco, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
a sea lion with its eyes closed enjoying the sun
A sea lion soaks up the sun. The sea lions have been a top attraction at Pier 39 for nearly 35 years. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images