A sea lion is swimming free again on the North Coast thanks to the Sunday efforts of firefighters and the Marine Mammal Rescue Team.
It was not your usual day at the office for the firefighters.
The marine mammal was entangled in fishing line in the kelp near the north-side end of the San Simeon Pier. Cambria Fire Department, Cal Fire and The Marine Mammal Center rescuers all responded, according to Emily Torlano, captain with Cambria Fire Department.
Cambria Fire Department oversees the North Coast Ocean Rescue Team, a group of volunteers trained to assist and rescue stranded seafarers.
Torlano — who was there as part of a three-person team on the department’s rescue boat — assessed the situation and “decided to have firefighter Ryan Mort paddle out on the rescue board, rather than use the boat,” which she was “afraid would frighten the sea lion.”
Mort, an experienced surfer, paddled out and cautiously approached the mammal, occasionally bracing himself and the board against a pile supporting the pier.
Torlano said later that her “obvious concerns were for my firefighter’s safety and the sea lion’s well being. If the sea lion had acted aggressively toward him, Mort would have retreated.”
However, the agitated mammal seemed to sense that the man was there to help.
During the nearly seven-minute rescue operation, the sleek sea lion climbed onto the board a couple of times. Once Mort cut the line, the creature turned toward the rescuer, then dove off the board and swam away, to cheers from people lined up on the pier above.
“Someone buy that man a beer!” a relieved onlooker yelled.