KPBS, March 28, 2013 at 3:00p ET: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined the current number of sea lion strandings warrants an investigation. The agency is calling the situation an unusual mortality event. [...] Any number of things could be causing problems, said [Stephanie Venn-Watson works at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego], including infections, toxins or simply not enough food.
NOAA: Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (as amended), an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) has been declared for California sea lions in California from January 2013 through the present. Beginning in January 2013, elevated strandings of California sea lion pups have been observed in Southern California (Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties). The area with the highest reported stranding rates is currently Los Angeles County, followed by Orange County, and strandings are increasing in San Diego County. [...] As part of the UME investigation process, an independent team of scientists (investigation team) is being assembled to coordinate with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events (Working Group) to review the data collected and to determine potential next steps. The group will focus on the immediate response and develop the investigative plan.
San Diego 6: The National Marine Fisheries has declared an Unusual Mortality Event, that’s something that’s rarely done in the Southern California area. It’s a formal declaration that there’s a serious problem that needs immediate attention. Susan Chivers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says because the animals are starving, researchers are examine their food source. She says they are also investigating whether a bacteria or virus could be to blame. “It’s hard to know what comes first because a starving pup is more susceptible to disease,” Chivers said.
Wired: The total number of rescues at those centers, as of Mar. 24, is 948 pups, [...] The number of rescued pups is just a fraction of the sea lions in trouble, with scientists estimating that mortality rates in the sea lions’ offshore rookeries could reach as high as 70 percent. [...] The cause of the mass stranding? Still unknown. But the magnitude of the mass stranding has prompted NOAA Fisheries to declare it an “Unusual Mortality Event,” a declaration that mobilizes federal resources for use in the ongoing investigation. Soon, an independent team will begin coordinating the investigation’s next steps, which could include additional necropsies, tissue sampling, and testing for potential biotoxins or infectious agents in the area.
Published: March 28th, 2013 at 8:59 pm ET