Sea lion found at restaurant returned to ocean

Posted at 1:57 PM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-05 20:28:36-04

SAN DIEGO - A sea lion pup found sleeping in a booth at the oceanfront Marine Room restaurant in La Jolla two months ago and several other sea lions that have been nursed back to health at SeaWorld San Diego was returned to the ocean Tuesday morning.

The marine mammal discovered Feb. 4 sleeping in a booth at the iconic eatery, who's been named "Marina," was dehydrated, malnourished and suffering from an eye injury. Photos and video from the ailing pup's rescue went viral on social media.

In the two months Marina spent in rehabilitation at SeaWorld San Diego's Animal Rescue Center, she gained 25 pounds and has displayed an ability to forage for food -- necessary for survival in the wild. Her eye injury has also healed, according to park officials.

Marina was freed several miles off the coast of San Diego Tuesday morning. Jody Westberg, a stranded animal coordinator at SeaWorld, and Marine Room Executive Chef Bernard Guillas were there to help her return to the ocean, according to SeaWorld.

Marina the sea lion returns to the wild

GOING HOME: She was found dehydrated and malnourished in a booth at The Marine Room restaurant in La Jolla back in February ... but Marina the sea lion pup was returned to the wild today after being nursed back to health at SeaWorld San Diego.More on how Marina ended up at the restaurant:

Posted by 10News – ABC San Diego KGTV on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Several other rehabilitated sea lions were also returned to the wild, officials said.

SeaWorld San Diego has taken in more than 300 marine mammals already in 2016, with 150-200 rescues recorded in an average year. Sea lion pups have found it particularly difficult to find food with the El Nino conditions, park officials said.