America Tonight, Aug. 26, 2014 (emphasis added): A sea lion has washed up… suffering repeated violent seizures, it’s in agony… “We’ve rescued about 860 animals within our rescue range. We’re seeing increased numbers in all the species we’ve cared for this year.” It’s not just sea lions — otters are also dying… large numbers of whales and dolphins are stranding on Southern California beaches, brown pelicans… dropped dead from the sky… “She had been seizing for about 30-40 minutes. Nothing seemed to be helping, so she eventually died while we were doing other stuff in here.”… “The sea lions are the sentinels of the sea. They are eating the fish that the humans are eating… There could be a time… that all the fish are contaminated by this toxin.”
Al Jazeera, Aug 26, 2014: [A] deadly neurotoxin produced by algae [is] taking the lives of many marine mammals… While the algae… are a common occurrence… its production of domoic acid is not… sea lions, brown pelicans, otters, whales and dolphins… have been stranding in large numbers recently… violent seizures, vomiting, permanent neurological damage and even heart failure within two days… The Marine Mammal Center [is] the largest marine mammal hospital in the world… But this year has been different… The Center has broken its animal admissions record… [In July, officials found domoic acid] levels had dropped… However the renewed surge in marine mammal strandings has left scientists puzzled… [As] scientists try to crack the mystery… marine mammals continue to suffer.
Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at The Marine Mammal Center: “A lot of animals are being exposed to such high levels of domoic acid, that they’re dying on us. They’re not responding to treatment like they often have in the past“… [The death toll] doesn’t include all of the sea lions that die before washing ashore… Nor does it account for all of the sea lion pups that will likely die without a parent. Many of the afflicted sea lions are lactating females still weaning their pups… “If there are a few hundred or even a thousand… there’s a few thousand pups that we’re probably losing… If this is happening over and over again, year after year, there is a fear that domoic acid may have a negative impact on the overall sea lion population… my biggest fear is if this happens all the time or if it’s everywhere on the West Coast… if that happens, it’s going to affect all the fish and it’s going to close down fisheries and it’ll have a huge negative impact on everyone.”
Jason Smith, Moss Landing Marine Lab: Domoic acid… has been present in all but one weekly sample since early spring…. This is also very weird… not sure exactly why it’s happening.
Clarissa Anderson, marine scientists: “A lot of the animals that are stranding right now don’t tend to feed very far off shore… So the mystery is, where is the domoic acid that they’re acquiring? We’re not measuring it in the mussels and shellfish near shore.”
Published: August 30th, 2014 at 9:43 pm ET