The Marine Animal Rescue group is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for shooting sea lions in Santa Monica Bay.

The most recent victim is an adult female sea lion that was seen on Venice Beach spurting blood from a hole on her right side on Aug. 3, said Peter Wallerstein, director of MAR. The animal stranded on the beach earlier in the day but lifeguards said she was immediately chased back into the water by beachgoers.

The sea lion came back dead in the same location on the beach at about 6 p.m., still spurting massive amounts of blood, Wallerstein said.

Other shooting incidents involving marine life have been reported in Santa Monica Bay in recent years, according to MAR. In February 2009, an 8-month-old sea lion pup was rescued by Marine Animal Rescue at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey after at least one bullet penetrated the pup’s spine. The pup, which was found paralyzed and in critical condition, had to be euthanized, Wallerstein said.

The MAR director noted that some fishermen feel that seals, sea lions and pelicans are a threat to their livelihoods and will purposely injure or kill the animals. The rescue group is determined to prevent other shootings of sea animals and is asking for the public’s assistance.

The public is encouraged to report potential shooting incidents by contacting the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement hotline at (800) 853-1964, or Marine Animal Rescue at (800) 39-WHALE (800-399-4253.

In addition to expanding its public education campaign, Marine Animal Rescue will be conducting undercover investigations of such incidents.

Wallerstein said his group will push for prosecution of the person or persons committing these crimes to the fullest extent of the law.

Information on Marine Animal Rescue, (310) 560-6284, or www.marspecialists.org.

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