Massive die-off of sea creatures from California to Alaska — Animals starving as food chains continue to collapse — Mass starvation events plague West Coast — Scientist: “Felt like I was doing nothing but counting dead animals” — TV: Deaths really quite troubling (VIDEO)
Published: January 12th, 2017 at 1:49 pm ET
The Press Democrat, Dec 25, 2016 (emphasis added): Ocean changes upend North Coast fisheries… once reliable ocean rhythms have been seriously unsettled of late, confounding those who depend on predictable, seasonal cycles… a symptom of widespread marine anomalies that have prevailed for the past three years, threatening everything from seabirds and sea lions to treasured catches such as salmon and abalone. “The ocean is changing,” one glum crabber aboard the vessel New Horizon said… Irregularity “is starting to look like the new normal,” he said… 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… Meanwhile, the commercial salmon harvest, California’s most valuable ocean fishery, continues to suffer, with spawning populations reduced significantly… Mass-starvation events have hit a spectrum of other West Coast marine wildlife, mostly due to the collapse of food chains… 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.
Pete Thomas Outdoors (Former columnist for the LA Times), Dec 22, 2016: Young orca found dead near Vancouver; are iconic mammals starving to death?… J34 becomes the fifth member of J Pod to have died this year, reducing the pod’s number to 25. The cause of J34’s death is not known, but he was reported to have appeared noticeably thin during recent sightings. Also, the necropsy revealed signs of physical injury. The cause of death for the four other J Pod members was not determined because bodies were not recovered – the animals simply vanished. But it appears as through Southern Residents as a whole are suffering from a slow starvation…
KOMO, Dec 22, 2016: [The orcas] go through periodic bouts of nutritional deficiency,” said [Howard Garrett, who runs the Orca Network]. “There’s just not enough of the chinook salmon and the coho chum salmon which are basically all they will eat.”
CTV, Dec 23, 2016: After the October 2016 deaths of a 23-year-old female, J28, and likely her 10-month-old calf, experts from the Center for Whale Research said dwindling food sources were a main factor in the population’s decline.
CTV transcript excerpt, Dec 23, 2016: Dr Anna Hall zoologist: “It died virtually in the prime of its life… It’s very, very concerning that a second animal just died.”…
CTV transcript excerpts, Dec 21, 2016: The numbers keep declining, mothers and babies dying — some experts say because of a lack of food…. so the death is really quite troubling.
Alaska Dispatch News: Nov 11, 2016: Kachemak Bay has seen massive die-offs of sea stars and other species. What’s going on? — I came to the beach to count sea star corpses.. About 10 species once were common in the intertidal zone here…hundreds of which had been dismembered and scattered over the beach, as if a monster had stalked through before us, tearing their bodies apart… We’re left with an absence, another mystery… A few months earlier… tens of thousands of murres starved to death and washed up along beaches all over Southcentral and Southwest Alaska. Biologists counted more dead seabirds than they ever had before, but there were more than anyone could count, leading to the second consecutive summer of empty nesting colonies… It was also the second summer in a row with no clams or clammers on Ninilchik beaches, and no young clams to promise a recovery. Otters washed up dead on the shores of Kachemak Bay. Dead whales rotted on the surface… How weird is all this? And does it all fit together?… Soon there were no more sunflower stars to be found. Other species followed… and then almost no sea stars at all… [Katie Aspen Gavenus, a naturalist with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies] reported dead sea stars to researchers in California, as she’d reported dead seabirds to researchers in Washington state. “Sometimes this summer, it felt like I was doing nothing but counting dead animals.”… “It’s probably a pathogen plus environmental factors,” said Melissa Miner, a researcher with University of California, Santa Cruz who’s been tracking the outbreak for years… We don’t know what will happen with the sea stars. We don’t even know what is happening with the sea stars. The scientists I spoke to didn’t know why the Kachemak Bay sea stars died this summer — they didn’t even know it had happened… Last winter, tens of thousands of murres starved to death. This summer, the remaining murres abandoned their nesting colonies and failed to raise chicks.