AP: “Alarming signs of oceanic distress” on West Coast — Record number of stranded seal pups, nearly 2,000% of normal levels — “Bags of skin and bones” — “In our 40 year history we’ve never seen this many animals” (VIDEO)

Published: November 24th, 2015 at 2:03 am ET
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Press Democrat, Nov 20, 2015 (emphasis added): Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center sees record number of stranded seal pups — Another species of marine wildlife has begun turning up, emaciated and weak, in record numbers on the California coast in what continue to be alarming signs of oceanic distress. Unhealthy northern fur seal pups have been found stranded on beaches in record numbers, newly weaned and weighing little more than typical birth weight for the species, marine mammal experts said. “They’re adorable, but on the other hand they’re these little bags of skin and bones,” said Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center… [The center has] taken in 85 northern fur seals… more than double the previous record of 31 pups in 2006… The northern fur seal strandings are the latest in a string of alarming marine events. Experts have been working all year to address an “unusual mortality event” among California sea lions. In addition, wildlife rescue crews have been trying to rehabilitate a record number of the rarely seen and endangered Guadalupe fur seal pups.

AP, Nov 21 2015: Record number of stranded seal pups in Northern California… experts say another species of marine wildlife has begun turning up, emaciated and weak, in record numbers on the California coast in what has been a series of alarming signs of oceanic distress.

Marine Mammal Center, Nov 19, 2015: Unusual Ocean Conditions Continue to Cause Record Strandings… Like the California sea lions and Guadalupe fur seals before them, these young, starving pups are stranding in record numbers. 2015 has been a year like no other for The Marine Mammal Center—with six weeks still remaining, we’ve already rescued more seals and sea lions than ever before in our 40-year history… All told, we have rescued more than 1,747 seals and sea lions so far this year… raising alarming questions about the health of our ocean… The fur seal pups we’ve been rescuing for the past month are about half the size they should be at this age. Our veterinary experts describe them as “emaciated,” which essentially means they are skin and bones, and in the poorest state of nutrition… While experts are able to explain how this is happening—unusually warm waters are affecting food availability for mothers and pups—they still can’t explain exactly why… What we do know is that the record numbers of stranded marine mammals we’ve seen all year indicate there is an urgent need for more science to help us all better understand what’s going on off the coast of California and how large-scale human impacts, such as overfishing and pollution, may be affecting the health of these animals and their ocean environment as well…

Marine Mammal Center: In normal years, the Marine Mammal Center admits about five northern fur seals… In November of 2006, 33 fur seals were admitted to the Marine Mammal Center… Most scientists don’t believe that the fur seal strandings were due to El Niño since other species weren’t showing similar El Niño effects… there is no clear understanding of why the fur seals were unable to find food that year.

CBS San Francisco, Nov 23, 2015: The Marine Mammal Center… is full of malnourished northern fur seal pups that have been abandoned or somehow separated from their mothers. “In our 40 year history we have never seen this many animals. We’ve had ninety one this season,” said Dr. Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center.

California Diver, Nov 22, 2015: Record Strandings: Northern Fur Seals New Victim of Unusual Ocean Conditions; The Marine Mammal Center breaks nearly every record due to record strandings of northern fur seals, California sea lions and Guadalupe fur seals from warm ocean waters… the Center has already rescued more seals and sea lions than ever before in its 40-year history. Now the Center is experiencing an unexpected influx of more than 80 northern fur seal pups—and more coming in every day… “Northern fur seals are just the latest victims of the warm waters off of our coast,” says Dr. Shawn Johnson, Director of Veterinary Science at the Center. “And as these conditions persist, we’re increasingly concerned about what this could mean for the next generation of sea lion pups too.”

Watch CBS San Francisco’s broadcast here

Published: November 24th, 2015 at 2:03 am ET
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