LAGUNA BEACH, Orange County (AP) — Marine experts say 12 pregnant female sea lions rescued in Southern California waters exhibited signs of poisoning that may be linked to toxic ocean algae blooms.

Officials say the sea lions exhibited symptoms of domoic acid poisoning, a neurological toxin created by the blooms.

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The Orange County Register reports that the sea lions were rescued last week in waters from Seal Beach to San Onofre State Beach.

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Officials say the discovery could signal that the marine environment remains out of balance. The newspaper reports that starting in 2013, a lack of food sources for lactating mother seals close to breeding grounds led to mass strandings.

The sea lions are exposed to the toxins when they eat surface fish such as sardines and anchovies that consume the algae.

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