— Up to 95% loss of kelp forests along Northern California coast

The author only gives two reasons for this loss

a ‘perfect storm’ = above average water temperature and an increase in sea urchin populations

From Monterey Herald
February 2, 2018

By Ross Clark, Earth Matters

The abundance of kelp along the California coast fluctuates, declining annually with winter storms. Since 2015, however, we have seen a “perfect storm” during which kelp abundance has declined by as much as 95 percent along the Northern California coastline. Above average water temperature and an increase in sea urchin populations have greatly reduced bull kelp abundance. The loss of this annual alga has had significant effects on other marine species, many of which rely on these forests for shelter and food.

One species that has been greatly affected by the loss of kelp is the red abalone. This mollusk relies heavily on fragments of drift kelp for food, reaching out from its rocky hiding place to grab passing pieces with its sticky foot muscle. Without drift kelp, the abalone must vacate its hiding place in search of other algae. Dr. Rogers-Bennett with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who studies kelp forest condition, notes that the impacts to the abalone became noticeable in 2016 after a year with low kelp abundance. Divers reported abalone mortality of almost 40 percent, finding large numbers of shells within the rocks and on beaches.

A diver team of 56 researchers, visiting 11 locations along the Sonoma and Mendocino coastline in 2017, reported a 65 percent reduction in abalone density compared with populations from a decade before. The abalone that were found showed clear signs of starvation, including loss of muscle mass and exhibiting risky behaviors in their search for algal food. Research divers found that where there once were dense layers of algae now were only bare rock and urchins. Abalone were found climbing out on the few remaining algal stalks reaching for blades of food, abandoning their usual cryptic cautious ways.

Based on the 2017 survey findings, the State determined that the Northern California abalone population was in jeopardy and on Dec. 7 the state closed the fishery for a year. An alarming finding from the dive surveys was a lack of abalone at deeper depths. Usually, about one third of the abalone live in deeper waters out of reach of most divers, but with the decline in kelp, the abalone had moved to shallow unprotected waters in search of food. This relocation and the decline in numbers and vigor have left the remaining abalone population exposed and vulnerable.

The closure has of course been detrimental to north coast businesses. A Fish and Wildlife report estimated that the north coast abalone fishery brings in $50 million in additional economic value to the area annually. With the closure, local businesses faced with reductions in visitors are hoping that the abalone divers switch to fishing other species.

Hopefully a closure of the abalone fishery will help reduce further stress on the population. Researchers point out that the animals that have so far survived are some of the largest of the species, and are needed to rebuild populations when the kelp returns. It takes about 12 years for an abalone to grow to legal size.

When and if kelp returns is uncertain. Urchin barrens often remain for a many years. Winter storms can dislodge exposed urchins and many will starve without sufficient algae in a few years. The ecological transition from kelp forest to urchin barrens and back to kelp forest has been studied in the past but barrens have not been reported at this geographic scale. Regional reductions in urchin numbers and successful recruitment of bull kelp (from distant parents) will be needed before kelp may return to previous abundance, when once again abalone may hide in crevices and wait for their meal to drift by.

Ross Clark is the director of the Central Coast Wetlands Group at Moss Landing Marine Labs. He’s also a member of the county Commission on the Environment and the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Research Activity Panel. Contact him at features(at)santacruzsentinel.com

http://www.montereyherald.com/environment-and-nature/20180201/earth-matters-the-loss-of-our-kelp-forests

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— Massive die-offs reported in Pacific Ocean; officials: “No fish out there, anywhere, over a very large area”… “What’s happening? Where’s their food?” — “Alarming… Frightening… Total failure in reproduction… Like nothing we’ve ever observed before” (VIDEO)

From ENE News

March 16, 2017

KTUU, Feb 14, 2017 (emphasis added): Following last year’s massive die-off of Alaskan seabirds, scientists still looking for answers… “Geographically and that it lasted a year, that’s unprecedented, [Kathy Kuletz, a biologist with US Fish & Wildlife Service]… “it’s certainly well over a hundred thousand and it could go many times that.”… “I would say possibly hundreds of thousands were killed… Almost always it’s been starvation… Sea birds are top predators,” [Heather Renner, biologist with Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge] said. “They’re sort of sentinels for our environment. They have definitely let us know that there’s change going on in the ocean ecosystem”… Renner says [the birds had an] exceptionally low birthing season… This reproductive die-off meant a “total failure” of murre reproduction that year… “The reproductive die off is something we’ve never seen in murres before, widespread. The refuge (AMNWR) has been monitoring these colonies for 4 decades and it’s like nothing we’ve ever observed before,” Renner said…

AP, Feb 10, 2017: [T]ens of thousands of common murres… starved and washed ashore on beaches from California to Alaska… “it’s because there’s no fish out there, anywhere, over a very large area,” [John Piatt, biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey] said. To see such effect over two sizeable marine ecosystems is extraordinary, he said… Common murres eat small forage fish [which] were largely absent when the National Marine Fisheries Service conducted surveys in summer 2015… A conservative extrapolation indicates 500,000 or more common murres died, Piatt said. Nearly all were emaciated… “In 2016, we had widespread breeding failure at all of the colonies in the Gulf of Alaska, as well as the Bering Sea,” Renner said. “It was a highly unusual event. Murres don’t fail regularly.”… “They died of starvation because there was no food,” Piatt said. “There was no food because there was no fish.”…

KYUK, Jan 25, 2017: “The birds were underweight to the point of starvation,” [Shannon Atkinson of the University of Alaska Fairbanks] said. The number of starved murres, and the length of their die-off, was something no one had seen before, but murres in the Gulf of Alaska were not the only seabirds to die in large numbers last year. Tufted puffins in the Bering Sea also showed up on beaches in large numbers… Scientists struggled to understand why a bird that spends most of the winter offshore eating fish would fly to the coast to die of starvation on the beach… research showed a link between the starving birds and trawl surveys that came up empty, or with only a few of the forage fish normally eaten by murres… “The main result to take away from this is the catch per unit effort for all of these species was very close to zero, meaning that the forage fish was simply not there,” Atkinson said.

KUCB, Dec 7, 2016: In the past two months, 300 dead puffins have washed up on St. Paul Island, alarming residents who had only seen six carcasses over the last decade… scientists say it could be the sign of a much larger ecosystem problem… [The co-director of St. Paul’s Ecosystem Conservation Office said] ‘There are dead puffins everywhere.’… The carcasses came ashore in waves… [Lauren Divine, co-director of St. Paul’s Ecosystem Conservation Office] said the extent of the die-off was frightening… “After we opened up the first five, it was very apparent that all of them were emaciated,” she said. “Their muscles were completely atrophied. They had empty stomachs. They had gastrointestinal bleeding, which indicates severe long-term starvation. They were in very, very poor shape… So we started digging into this more,” said Divine. “What is happening? Where is their food?“… [T]he ECO office is also seeing signs of stress in other species. [Divine] said the island’s seabirds laid barely any eggs this season, hunters had a hard time finding sea lions, and crab quotas were cut sharply after a survey showed low numbers.

Watch KTVA’s broadcast here

http://enenews.com/massive-die-offs-reported-in-pacific-ocean-officials-theres-no-fish-out-there-anywhere-over-a-very-large-area-what-is-happening-where-is-their-food-alarming-frightening

— TV reporter: “Woah! Dead whales!” Record high number of dead whales in Hawaii; “Carcasses scattered throughout islands”; low numbers of calves and cows off Hawaii, Philippines, Japan; “Possible health effects” from Fukushima radiation (VIDEO)

“Swimming through that for eight hours a day for an entire year could have possible health effects,”
Dr. Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

What do whales do for the other 16 hours a day, Dr. Buesseler? Stop the smoke and mirrors! 

Educational comments posted with the article as well. 

From ENE News

February 5, 2017

KGMB, Jan 17, 2017 (emphasis added): Officials investigate record number of humpback whale deaths… Six humpback whale carcasses have washed up onto Hawaii shores since November. That’s double the number typically found in a season, which runs from November to May… The previous record [of five] whale carcasses found in Hawaii waters was in 2013… Biologists aren’t sure what’s behind the increase in deaths. “It is higher than usual. It’s almost double this early in the season for what we’d get in a whole season,” said [NOAA’s] David Schofield… Since November, whale carcasses have been scattered throughout the main Hawaiian islandsBiologists are investigating to see if the whales starved or if there’s a problem with the ocean’s healthofficials will be meeting with partners in Alaska and Washington D.C. to investigate further.

KGMB reporter Mahealani Richardson, Jan 17, 2017: Woah! Dead whales! Wildlife officials are investigating a mystery over a record number of humpback whale deaths

Other recent whale deaths in Hawaii

KHON, Nov 22, 2016: Beached melon-headed whale euthanized on Maui… “The body condition was significantly compromised…” said [NOAA’s] Aliza Milette-Winfree… a necropsy will be done to determine what made it sick.

KHON, Oct 23, 2016: A pregnant dwarf sperm whale found dead on Maui’s Makena shoreline… this is very unusual because these whales normally live in deep waters… samples have been sent to the mainland to see if the whale also had any diseases… [NOAA] reported that a witness saw two small whales stranded in Makena…

AP, Aug 26, 2016: Experts are reporting the sighting of a sickly humpback whale off Maui. [NOAA’s] Malia Chow said Friday the animal is emaciated and covered in whale lice… She says the animal’s poor condition is a mystery.

Hakai Magazine, May 25, 2016: No-Show Pacific Ocean Humpbacks Stump Scientists… Whale researchers from around the Pacific are reporting that far fewer whales showed up in their usual wintering grounds…  [NOAA’s Ed Lyman] says he started noticing changes in December 2015… [He] was getting calls from tour boat operators asking where the whales were. “Something happened this year,” agrees Jim Darling, a researcher with the nonprofit Whale Trust Maui. “It almost seemed as if the females didn’t bother to show up”… the density of cows and calves was especially low… Darling also reported hearing from colleagues in the Philippines and Japan of similarly low whale numbers… Also striking was the low number of calves… Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, also saw fewer whales than normal says Oscar Frey, an oceanographer… he observed “the least number of mothers with babies that I have ever seen.”

How about in 2017? — The Garden Island, Jan 30, 2017: Annual whale count… [Jean Souza, HINMS Kauai programs coordinator] said the Kauai sites… saw an average of four whale viewings within a 15-minute time count period… down from the six sightings of the 2016 count.

Dr. Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Jan 7, 2017: “We know there can be health effects from exposure to any amount of radiation… the highest level we’ve seen north of Hawaii is 10 Becquerels per cubic meter. Swimming through that for eight hours a day for an entire year could have possible health effects, but that additional dose is one thousand times smaller than a single dental X-ray.”

Watch KGMB’s broadcast here

— California: Ocean changes upend North Coast fisheries

“I think the event is winding down, and — probably some time at the end of winter, spring next year — it will be kind of just a distant nightmare, rather than a current bad dream.”
Nicholas Bond, research meteorologist, University of Washington

From the Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Year in Review: Ocean changes upend North Coast fisheries

 “One of the things that is clear is there’s a lot of variation from year to year along the Pacific Coast, and some of that is tied into natural patterns, like El Niño,” Mantua said. “But what we saw in 2014, ‘15 and the first part of ‘16 was warmer than anything we’ve seen in our historical records, going back about 100 years.”

Notable impacts for the North Coast included last year’s persistent, widespread “red tide” — a bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia, a single-celled organism that thrives in warm water and produces a neurotoxin called domoic acid. In addition to contributing to fatalities among sea lions and other pinnipeds, the toxin shut down last year’s Dungeness crab fishery for 4½ months, including the lucrative holiday season, pushing many in the North Coast’s commercial fleet to the brink of insolvency.

The crisis isn’t over. Lingering toxicity along the California coast continued into early fall this year, though in a more localized distribution pattern, UC Santa Cruz Professor of Ocean Health Raphael Kudela said during an October public hearing on fisheries and aquaculture.

Warmer than usual water also is believed to have contributed to the collapse of the bull kelp forest off Sonoma and Mendocino counties, along with an explosion of purple urchins that have devoured remaining plant life. The urchins, in turn, are out-competing red abalone, the shellfish that attract thousands of sport divers and pickers each year to the Sonoma and Mendocino coast.

Evidence of starvation in abalone populations prompted authorities to impose new restrictions in the sport abalone fishery next year to limit the catch. The commercial red urchin fishery is suffering, as well, as the larger, marketable red urchins starve.

Meanwhile, the commercial salmon harvest, California’s most valuable ocean fishery, continues to suffer, with spawning populations reduced significantly by the state’s prolonged drought.

Mass-starvation events have hit a spectrum of other West Coast marine wildlife, mostly due to the collapse of food chains brought on by warmer ocean water.

Large dieoffs of Cassin’s auklets, a tiny seabird, were first noticed when dead birds began washing ashore in fall of 2014. A year later, it was malnourished and dead common murres that were found adrift.

Juvenile California sea lions, Guadalupe fur seals and other marine mammals have suffered for several years, as well, both from starvation and, to a lesser extent, from domoic acid poisoning.

The dieoff California sea lions, declared an “unusual mortality event” by scientists in early 2013, has taken a toll on the population, especially the young, with Southern California strandings peaking last year at a record-breaking 4,000, according to the NOAA Fisheries. About a third of the sea lions rescued received treatment at the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center.

Researchers believe nursing mothers had been unable to find enough forage, like sardines and anchovies, to properly nourish their young.

The situation for sea lions and seals — mammals known as pinnipeds — appears to have improved somewhat this year, though sea lion strandings were still above 2,000. And there’s been encouraging news on the condition of pups surveyed this fall at Southern California birthing colonies, suggesting food availability may have stabilized somewhat as the warm blob relents, researchers said.

“The short story is that the warm ocean temperatures have moderated, but it’s still noticeably warmer than normal in a narrow strip right along the coast, the entire coast, of North America,” said Nicholas Bond, a research meteorologist with the University of Washington who first coined the term to describe the huge mass of warm water offshore.

There’s some reluctance among scientists and fishermen to predict what comes next.

Washington state fisherman Ron Anderson, who came south to catch crab because northern fisheries remained closed, said the ocean temperature had dropped 6 degrees since he and his crew arrived in the North Bay around Nov. 1.

Another crabber, Bob Monckton of Santa Rosa, said he’d recently seen another harbinger of cooling conditions. “I’ve seen more anchovies out there than I’ve seen in a while,” he said.

But it’s unclear how quickly or if the ocean will return to “normal,” or even what normal would be, given the relatively short period of time during which scientists have monitored conditions historically.

“Even when temperatures moderate,“ Bond said, “it takes a while for the biology to respond, so it’s still a fairly disrupted ecosystem.”

“But all that being said, I think the event is winding down, and — probably some time at the end of winter, spring next year — it will be kind of just a distant nightmare, rather than a current bad dream.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6411090-181/year-in-review-ocean-changes?artslide=0

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— As food levels plummet, unusual number of humpback whales seen in San Francisco Bay looking for food

“Humpbacks normally feed farther offshore.”

What happens when the food runs out everywhere?

Associated Press
Unusual number of whales seen in San Francisco Bay
May 12, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Migrating humpback whales have been swimming into San Francisco Bay in unprecedented numbers during the past two weeks — an onslaught that experts say could be caused by an unusual concentration of anchovies near shore.

As many as four humpbacks at a time have been spotted flapping their tails and breaching in bay waters, apparently feeding on the anchovies and other schooling fish during incoming tides, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/1TB4C8p) Thursday.

It’s normal for gray whales to wander into the bay, but humpbacks generally feed farther offshore and are not accustomed to navigating shallow water and narrow straits such as those in San Francisco Bay, the newspaper reported.

Mary Jane Schramm, a spokeswoman for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, said she and other marine experts worry that the whales could swamp boats while breaching, get hit by a ship or spooked by people who paddle or sail out to see them.

KSBW-TV reports a humpback whale was rescued in Monterey Bay this week after it became tangled in crab gear. On Thursday afternoon, a pair of whales surfaced near Golden Gate Bridge as two kite surfers came dangerously close to them.

Some have expressed excitement at seeing the whales.

“I had never seen humpback whales before, and it was awesome,” said Laurie Duke, 54, who volunteers at the Marine Mammal Center and Golden Gate Cetacean Research. “They were mostly coming partially out of the water, showing their tails.’

Schramm said the animals could get into trouble if they head any direction except west because the potential for disease and skin problems is greater in fresh and brackish water.

“The deeper they get into the bay, the more acoustically confusing it becomes,” she said of the whale’s sense of direction.

The whales are migrating north after likely giving birth in the waters off Mexico and Central America, Schramm said.

Schramm’s biggest fear is that the giant visitors will go the way of Humphrey, a famous 40-ton humpback who caused pandemonium in 1985 when he swam through the Carquinez Strait, up the Sacramento River and into a creek.

Large numbers of whales were reported last year near the Golden Gate Bridge due to a concentration of anchovies.

http://www.bdtonline.com/news/unusual-number-of-whales-seen-in-san-francisco-bay/article_25b7bc2f-200c-56f3-8aa5-2b4ff979c316.html

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/San-Francisco-Bay-humpback-whale-sightings-alarm-7464427.php

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— Squid are part of ocean’s core food web; in 2014, California sardines crashed

In recent years scientists have gained a deeper understanding of sardines’ value as “forage fish,” small but nutrition-packed species such as herring and market squid that form the core of the ocean food web, funneling energy upward by eating tiny plankton and being preyed on by big fish, seabirds, seals and whales.

From the Los Angeles Times
January 5, 2014
By Tony Barboza

The sardine fishing boat Eileen motored slowly through moonlit waters from San Pedro to Santa Catalina Island, its weary-eyed captain growing more desperate as the night wore on. After 12 hours and $1,000 worth of fuel, Corbin Hanson and his crew returned to port without a single fish.

“Tonight’s pretty reflective of how things have been going,” Hanson said. “Not very well.”

To blame is the biggest sardine crash in generations, which has made schools of the small, silvery fish a rarity on the West Coast. The decline has prompted steep cuts in the amount fishermen are allowed to catch, and scientists say the effects are probably radiating throughout the ecosystem, starving brown pelicans, sea lions and other predators that rely on the oily, energy-rich fish for food.

If sardines don’t recover soon, experts warn, the West Coast’s marine mammals, seabirds and fishermen could suffer for years.

The reason for the drop is unclear. Sardine populations are famously volatile, but the decline is the steepest since the collapse of the sardine fishery in the mid-20th century. And their numbers are projected to keep sliding.

One factor is a naturally occurring climate cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which in recent years has brought cold, nutrient-rich water to the West Coast. While those conditions have brought a boom in some species, such as market squid, they have repelled sardines.

If nature is responsible for the decline, history shows the fish will bounce back when ocean conditions improve. But without a full understanding of the causes, the crash is raising alarm.

An assessment last fall found the population had dropped 72% since its last peak in 2006. Spawning has taken a dive too.

In November, federal fishery managers slashed harvest limits by more than two-thirds, but some environmental groups have argued the catch should be halted outright.

“We shouldn’t be harvesting sardines any time the population is this low,” said Geoff Shester, California program director for the conservation group Oceana, which contends that continuing to fish for them could speed their decline and arrest any recovery.

The Pacific sardine is the ocean’s quintessential boom-bust fish. It is short-lived and prolific, and its numbers are wildly unpredictable, surging up and down in decades-long cycles in response to natural shifts in the ocean environment. When conditions are poor, sardine populations plunge. When seas are favorable, they flourish in massive schools.

It was one of those seemingly inexhaustible swells that propelled California’s sardine fishery to a zenith in the 1940s. Aggressive pursuit of the species transformed Monterey into one of the world’s top fishing ports.

And then it collapsed.

By mid-century sardines had practically vanished, and in the 1960s California established a moratorium on sardine fishing that lasted 18 years. The population rebounded in the 1980s and fishing resumed, but never at the level of its heyday.

Since the 1940s scientists have debated how much of the collapse was caused by ocean conditions and how much by overfishing. Now, researchers are posing the same question.

“It’s a terribly difficult scientific problem,” said Russ Vetter, director of the Fisheries Resources Division at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Separate sardine populations off Japan, Peru and Chile fluctuate in the same 50- to 70-year climate cycle but have been more heavily exploited, Vetter said. West Coast sardines are considered one of the most cautiously fished stocks in the world, a practice that could explain why their latest rebound lasted as long as it did. The West Coast’s last sardine decline began in 1999, but the population shot back up by the mid-2000s.

In recent years scientists have gained a deeper understanding of sardines’ value as “forage fish,” small but nutrition-packed species such as herring and market squid that form the core of the ocean food web, funneling energy upward by eating tiny plankton and being preyed on by big fish, seabirds, seals and whales.

Now, they say, there is evidence some ocean predators are starving without sardines. Scarcity of prey is the leading theory behind the 1,600 malnourished sea lion pups that washed up along beaches from Santa Barbara to San Diego in early 2013, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Melin’s research indicates that nursing sea lion mothers could not find fatty sardines, so they fed on less nutritious market squid, rockfish and hake and produced less milk for their young in 2012. The following year their pups showed up on the coast in overwhelming numbers, stranded and emaciated.

We are likely to see more local events like this if sardines disappear or redistribute along the coast and into deeper water,” said Selina Heppell, a fisheries ecologist at Oregon State University.

Biologists also suspect the drop is hurting brown pelicans that breed on California’s northern Channel Islands. The seabirds, which scoop up sardines close to the ocean surface, have shown signs of starvation and have largely failed to breed or rear chicks there since 2010.

Brown pelicans were listed as endangered in 1970 after they were pushed nearly to extinction by DDT, which thinned their eggshells. They were taken off the list in 2009 and now number about 150,000 along the West Coast.

Though pelicans have had more success recently in Mexico, where about 90% of the population breeds, environmental groups think the lack of food at the northern end of their range could threaten the species’ recovery.

Normally, pelicans and sea lions would adapt by instead gobbling up anchovies. But aside from an unusual boom in Monterey Bay, anchovy numbers are depressed too.

“That does not bode well for everything in the ocean that relies on sardines to get big and fat and healthy,” said Steve Marx, policy analyst for the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit that advocates for ecosystem-based management of fisheries.

Fishermen also attest to the scarcity.

The West Coast sardine catch oscillates with the market and was valued at about $14.5 million in 2013, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. But California fishermen pulled in just $1.5 million worth of sardines last year, preliminary data from state Department of Fish and Wildlife show.

Just a few years ago, Hanson, the sardine captain, didn’t have to travel far from port to pull in nets bulging with sardines.

Not anymore. If his crew catches sardines these days, they are larger, older fish that are mostly shipped overseas and ground up for pet or fish food. Largely absent are the small and valuable young fish that can be sold for bait or canned and eaten.

Still, when he embarked for Catalina Island on a December evening, Hanson tried to stay optimistic. “We’re going to get a lot of fish tonight,” he told a fellow sardine boat over the radio.

After hours of cruising the island’s shallow waters, the voice of another boat captain lamented over the radio, “I haven’t seen a scratch.” So the Eileen and other boats made an about-face for the Orange County coast, hoping to net sardines in their usual hideouts.

No such luck.

By daybreak, Hanson was piloting the hulking boat back to the docks with nothing in its holds.

tony.barboza@latimes.com

http://articles.latimes.com/2014/jan/05/local/la-me-sardine-crash-20140106

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— Third year of unusual mortality event for sea lions declared in California “Dead animals litter California beaches… Alarming phenomenon” — “Graveyard of washed-up sea life” — “Influx of malnourished sea creatures” — Experts: We’re really starting to worry… The animals are starving to death… Covered in sores… Stunted growth… Weak immune systems (VIDEOS)

From ENE News

April 25, 2016

NBC L.A., Apr 19, 2016 (emphasis added): Officials are investigating why sick sea lions are washing up onshore… The Laguna Beach Pacific Marine Mammal Center has an overflow of sea lions… The reason for the influx of sea lions remains a disappearing cold water food source… Another unusual phenomenon they are seeing: Elephant and harbor seals are coming into the centers in addition to California sea lions, and that is not typical.

NBC L.A. transcript, Apr 19, 2016: “Now, an alarming number of sea lions are washing upalong our local beaches… it is taking longer to rehabilitate these sick sea lions… Experts say [they are] taking longer to become healthier.”

Laguna Beach Independent, Apr 23, 2016: Most are malnourished and many are infected with parasites, [said Keith Matassa, Pacific Marine Mammal Center]… “The rehabbing process is slower this year becausethe sea lions are coming in older and sicker.”

Salon, Apr 21, 2016: Dead animals litter California beaches — California is in its third straight year of “unusual mortality” rates for sea lions. The dismal state was first declared in January of 2013 and death rates have increased each year since… It looks like 2016 will be worse… They are starving to death. The same goes for birds… California beaches are littered with dead sea lions and birds. Watch our video for more on this alarming phenomenon. [Video transcript: (Stephen Scheiblauer, Monterey Harbormaster:) “We’re seeing a greater mortality of sea lions… also some kinds of birds… We bury [sea lions]… dig a big trench and bury it.”]

Pepperdine University’s student newspaper (‘The Graphic‘), Mar 28, 2016: A walk on Point Dume’s beach [Malibu, California] recently resembles a graveyard of washed-up sea life. On the stretch of the Pacific Coast… dead sea lions, tuna crabs and crows littered on the sand, a defunctive and rotten smell permeating the sea air… [S]tranded sea lions have become a regular sight for those who frequent Point Dume, as beach-goers stretch their towels yards away from the rotting corpses. “This has been a coast-wide problem for the past four years,” Seasonal Assistant Marine Coordinator Colleen Weiler said.

KRON, Apr 11, 2016: Marine Mammal Center dealing with influx of malnourished sea creatures… Hundreds of elephant seals, harbor seals, and sea lions are [at the center]… Rescue crews are bringing them in daily because they simply don’t have enough to eat… Dr. Shawn Johnson is the lead veterinarian at the center and said the animals are starving

The Channels Newspaper, Apr 22, 2016: Rescued seals are brought [in] with seabornediseases… causing bumps and blisters on the face, neck and flippers

Marin Independent Journal, Apr 10, 2016: Marine Mammal Center coping with relentness influx of ailing sea lions… “They are skin and bones, they are malnourished, they have secondary infections like pneumonia because their immune systems are suppressed,” said [Dr. Shawn Johnson]… the sea lions appear to be experiencing stunted growth… “These are the smallest pups we have seen in 41 years of study,” [NOAA’s Sharon Melin] said.

The Marine Mammal Center, Mar 29, 2016: This is the fourth year in a row that we’ve seen California sea lions in crisis… [This year] these animals are also unusually small… essentiallyfur-covered skeletons—they seem to be experiencing stunted growth… pup weights are thelowest ever documented… [T]he spike in sea lion strandings began before the current El Niño pattern took hold and even before the warm water “blob” began to form… “After four years of sea lions in crisis, the initial shock of seeing so many starving sea lions is over andnow we’re really starting to worry about long-term impacts on the population as a whole,” says Dr. Shawn Johnson, Director of Veterinary Science at the Center.

Watch videos here: NBC LA | Salon | KRON

http://enenews.com/alarming-phenomenon-dead-animals-litter-california-beaches-graveyard-washed-sea-life-influx-malnourished-sea-creatures-experts-really-starting-worry-theyre-skin-bones-immune-systems-weak-cove/comment-page-1#comment-766209