Unprecedented Species Dieoff's And Starvation In The Pacific Ocean Means What Exactly?

Categories: News

Unprecedented: ‘Cataclysmic’ die-off of birds on entire West Coast — Beaches covered with dead bodies — Professor: It’s tragic… never seen anything like this… We ignore it at our peril… Canary in the coalmine for us… Scrambling to figure out what’s going on with ecosystem.  

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Story from the University of Santa Cruz:   Sea stars along much of the North American Pacific coast are dying in great numbers from a mysterious wasting syndrome. Similar die-offs have occurred before in the 1970s, 80s, and the 90s, but never before at this magnitude and over such a wide geographic area. Pisaster ochraceus and many other species of sea stars have been affected by the current sea star wasting syndrome event. The following paper by Hewson et al. “Densovirus associated with sea-star wasting disease and mass mortality” provides evidence for a link between a densovirus (SSaDV) and sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS) but there is still much work to be done before this mysterious disease is fully understood. 

  1. TV: “It’s like a scene from a horror movie” along West Coast — “We’re seeing all sorts of mysterious goings-on” — “There is no food out there” — Scientists can’t figure out why there’s mass starvation of seabirds — “This is a really serious thing” — “A species die-off is always unsettling” (VIDEO) January 20, 2015
  2. Experts: Disease explosion in West Coast sea stars — “Extinction event” is pretty close — “Epidemic of historic magnitude… threatens to decimate entire population” of species in Oregon — Sudden 50-fold increase in recent weeks — Entire ecosystem could be disrupted — “We have no clue” (VIDEO) June 11, 2014
  3. FOX San Diego: Sardines, crayfish “disappeared from Pacific Ocean… they’ve just vanished” — Marine mammals starving, struggling to survive on West Coast — Strandings in past 5 weeks already exceed what’s normally seen for an entire year — “Much larger” than anything on record (VIDEOS) February 10, 2015
  4. ABC: ‘Mysterious surge’ in sick marine mammals all along California coast — Infested with parasites, extremely emaciated; “Very seriously ill… in very bad shape” — Experts: “We’re extremely concerned right now” — Deaths up 1,500% at rescue facility — ‘Number mystifies officials’ (VIDEOS) January 13, 2015
  5. TV: Scientists have found nuclear waste off San Diego coast — Fukushima’s problems now being felt in our local ecosystem — Professor most worried about finding ‘pools’ of cesium — “Time will tell how this plays out” (VIDEO) February 4, 2014

Sick, starving sea lion pups wash up in record numbers on California coast

Sick and starving, the 8-month-old sea lion pup dubbed “French Toast” braved an arduous journey to get here.

Separated from his mother in the Channel Islands in Southern California, he was found stranded on a beach near Carpinteria. Rescue workers moved him 350 miles to a marine hospital in the Marin Headlands above San Francisco. There, veterinarians put him under anesthesia. They injected antibiotics to save his left eye from an ulcer, administered painkillers for virus sores on his flippers and hydrated him with electrolytes.

Along the length of the California coastline, an extraordinary rescue effort is underway. In January and February alone, 1,450 malnourished or dying sea lion pups have washed up on shore – compared with just 68 in the same period last year.  

Marine biologists and climate scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the culprit is a mass of warm coastal water that’s imperiling breeding and nursing colonies of California sea lions. The so-called “unusual mortality event” – following a much smaller bubble of sea lion strandings and deaths in 2013 – has triggered questions about the overall health and volatility of the California ocean environment.

Scientists say the warmer waters can prevent sea lion mothers from finding sufficient quantities of anchovies, mackerel, sardines and other fish to provide nutrition for nursing. So they are leaving behind their pups, mostly born each June on four islands in Southern California, to forage for food for extended periods – far beyond their normal two or three days at sea.

As a result, tens of thousands of pups birthed last summer are believed to be dying on the islands as others, fearing their mothers have abandoned them, set out into the ocean and drift or wash ashore sometimes hundreds of miles away.

“These are pups that should be nursing on their mothers,” said Dr. Shawn Johnson, director of the veterinary science department at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. “They’re (arriving) extremely emaciated. They have no energy stores. They’re just skin and bones, wasting away and on the brink of death.”

From Sea World in San Diego to the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center in Del Norte County, seven California marine rescue facilities are tube-feeding fish gruel to skeletal pups, helping them learn to catch and digest whole fish and administering vitamins and medication to ward off pneumonia and skin infections.... on to page 2---

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