NOAA, Dec 10, 2015 (emphasis added): Scientists observed another year of low pup weights during their annual survey… off California… “If last year is any indication of what to expect this year, we’re probably going to see a lot of pups strand unless many die at the rookeries,” said Sharon Melin, wildlife biologist, NOAA Fisheries. “Only this time it is not just going to be California sea lion pups. We’re already seeing unusual numbers of northern fur seal pups stranding in California and we may even see some adults for both species.” Melin predicts that the geographic extent of the strandings will also expand… “Three-month old female California sea lion pups had… the lowest weights we’ve seen at this rookery in 41 years since monitoring began,” said Melin… For northern fur seal pups, the news is equally grim… The poor condition of pups means that their mothers are not finding sufficient prey… The lack of prey near the rookery is linked to the anomalous ocean conditions… NOAA Fisheries scientist Nate Mantua sees struggling California sea lions as indicators for lots of changes taking place in the marine environment.
AP, Dec 11, 2015: Scientists forecast another year of high death rates for sea lions, seals off California coast… “Based on the condition of the pups we saw in September and October, we would anticipate there will be at least as many strandings this winter,” Melin said… The main problem appears to be a lack of food.
San Francisco Weekly, Dec 11, 2015: California’s Sea Lions are Starving… It’s shaping up to be another terrible year for California sea lions… [They] are having trouble keeping themselves fed… and end up malnourished and sick. When they’re too unhealthy to swim anymore they flop onto shore… The number of distressed sea lions… on our beaches has exploded in recent years.
Courthouse News Service, Dec 14, 2015: A dramatic decrease in California sea lion pups’ average weight… caused [NOAA] scientists… to predict another brutal winter… Lack of available prey has sent the average weight of sea lion pups plummeting to its lowest level in 41 years of records, Melin said… NOAA scientists say struggling sea lions are a sign of chaos below the surface.
San Francisco Chronicle, Dec 10, 2015: [F]ederal scientists [are] warning beachgoers and marine mammal lovers to expect another alarming increase in pinniped strandings and deaths along the California coast… “For California sea lions, this is the worst, and by far,” said Melin, who studies West Coast pinnipeds for the NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “The poor condition of pups from both species indicates the problems are widespread.” The situation is disturbing for marine biologists who have been documenting unprecedented changes this year in the ocean ecosystem, including… die-offs of Northern California birds, fish and mammals. Low weights last year were responsible for a huge death toll this year, said Melin…. “Based on the condition of the pups we saw in September and October, we would anticipate there will be at least as many strandings this winter,” Melin said… Melin said a lack of food appears to be the chief problem. The core diet of most pinnipeds is sardine, anchovy, Pacific hake, rock fish and squid, all of which have been impacted by changing sea conditions.
Orange County Register, Dec 10, 2015: After record year, even more sea lions and fur seals expected to end up stranded on Southern California beaches — Even more sea lions could end up stranded on Southern California beaches because of record low weights among yearlings… thousands of sea lions [are expected to] wash ashore this winter and early spring… This summer and fall, Melin observed an all-time low pup weight – the lowest since records of sea lions have been kept in 41 years… When sea lions converged on the island in 2012, there was no sign of a problem. A year later, nearly 70 percent of the newborns had died… In 2014, sea lions produced just half the number of pups… “We are preparing for the worst,” [NOAA's Justin] Viezbicke said.
KCBX, Dec 10, 2015: Starving pups have been and still are showing up in record numbers… fish species that sea lions feed on… are just too hard to find currently.
LINK TV, Nov 1, 2015 — Anne Keala Kelly, journalist/filmmaker: Americans think the Pacific is a toilet. Nobody even talks about Fukushima anymore. You know, when you’re in the Pacific, you actually care about the fact that there’s almost no more fish — that the ocean is dying. It’s terrifying to be on the receiving end of this society, this culture. It is terrifying, every day.
Published: December 14th, 2015 at 9:52 pm ET