Sea lion rescued from Santa Barbara oil spill dies at SeaWorld

Sea lion rescued from Santa Barbara oil spill dies at SeaWorld

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A sea lion that became streaked with petroleum from an oil spill on California's Santa Barbara coastline has died after it was taken to SeaWorld in San Diego to be treated, officials said on Saturday.

Up to 2,500 barrels (105,000 gallons) of crude petroleum gushed onto San Refugio State Beach and into the Pacific Ocean about 20 miles (32 km) west of Santa Barbara on Tuesday when an underground pipeline that runs along the coastal highway burst.

The spill left a number of birds and marine mammals streaked with petroleum. So far, a greater number of presumed oil spill casualties have been found alive than dead.

The sea lion was found alive in the area earlier in the week with petroleum on its coat and was shipped to SeaWorld San Diego to be cared for and cleaned.

But the mammal died overnight, said Ashley Settle, a spokeswoman for the joint-agency command for cleanup and recovery.

Dave Koontz, a spokesman for SeaWorld, confirmed the death.

"It's always very saddening to our rescue team when an animal doesn't make it and often the situation is that the animal is past the point of being able to recover," he said.

Koontz added that a necropsy is planned to determine the animal's cause of death.

So far, two dolphins without visible signs of petroleum exposure have also been found dead, Settle said, as have five petroleum-streaked pelicans and 50 invertebrates.

Another surviving sea lion also was being cared for at SeaWorld, Koontz said.

Separately, wildlife workers have managed to keep alive nine pelicans, one western grebe and a sea elephant that were streaked with oil, Settle said.

The full extent of the toll on wildlife has not been determined, and experts fear the oiled birds and marine mammals found to date may represent only the tip of a potential calamity.

Plains All American Pipeline LP, the owner of the oil pipeline that burst, must take numerous corrective measures, including an in-depth analysis of factors contributing to the spill and a plan to fix any flaws found before they can restart the line, U.S. safety officials said on Friday.

The spill was the largest to hit the ecologically sensitive shoreline northwest of Los Angeles since a massive 1969 blowout dumped up to 100,000 barrels into the Santa Barbara Channel. That disaster, which dwarfs Tuesday's accident, killed thousands of sea birds and other wildlife, helping to spark the modern U.S. environmental movement.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, editing by G Crosse)