A baby sea lion was found huddled against a sea wall near the end of Dahlia Avenue Wednesday morning.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department and Imperial Beach lifeguards kept beach onlookers at a safe distance until SeaWorld Animal Rescue arrived on the scene shortly after 12 p.m.
"It's just a malnourished and underweight sea lion pup," said Senior Animal Care Specialist Jody Westberg. "We're rescuing a lot of malnourished, underweight sea lion pups this year."
On average SeaWorld rescues 150 malnourished sea lions a year, but SeaWorld has rescued 130 since Jan. 1 this year.
"There's something going on out in the ocean," she said. "Their food source has moved."
Historically SeaWorld gets a fair share of the hungry pups from Imperial Beach, but the pup rescued Wednesday is the first of the year this far south, Westberg said.
Carlsbad is "the hot spot" this year, she said, accounting for roughly 30 percent of all rescues this year.
SeaWorld Animal Rescue was called to the Imperial Beach shoreline in January to rescue a baby dolphin but the dolphin died before it could receive treatment.
A sea lion named Buck was released in Border Field State Park Jan. 11 after someone shot him with a shotgun last fall.
People who spot injured or stranded animals are encouraged to report the sighting to a lifeguard or call SeaWorld Animal Rescue at 800-541-SEAL.