The first ones showed up dead in August and two more were shot to death this month. It's a troubling trend for wildlife advocates and marine mammal experts. They want people to understand that shooting these animals is more than just inhumane: it's illegal.
Jonsie Ross remembers seeing the crowd gathered around a rock on Broad Beach in Malibu, and she remembers seeing the telltale wounds on the dying sea lion that had washed up on shore.
"We eventually found a .22 slug in the right flipper," said Ross.
Ross is with an organization called the California Wildlife Center. It was on October 10 when her group rescued one sea lion that had been shot four times. It died later that day.
"I have no idea why people would shoot a sea lion," said Ross.
A day later, another sea lion washed up nearby in Point Dume.
"She was already dead. Pulled her out of the surf and she had also been shot twice," said Ross.
Officials with the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro say that in total, four sea lions have been shot to death in the Malibu area since August.
"It's always unfortunate when we find animals that have been shot," said Lauren Palmer, Marine Mammal Center. "And it's even more unfortunate when they die as a result of those injuries."
No one is sure who is responsible for the shootings. Ross says it's not usual for sea lions to be injured during the start of squid season, which began on October 1. That's because sea lions tend to congregate around the boats that are fishing for squid.
"We don't know who is doing it. I hope whoever is doing it they would just stop, because it's not right," said Ross.
Fishermen are allowed to use special firecrackers to keep sea lions away from their boats. But shooting sea lions is illegal. They are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
"I can't really understand it. I can't really wrap my brain around how someone can do that," said Malibu resident Phillip Greene.
Eyewitness News called a representative for the squid-fishing industry for comment regarding the shootings but did not receive a response when this story aired.
Ross says the proper authorities have been notified and they are investigating, but she says finding the person responsible won't be easy.