Thursday, June 15, 2017

Alarming Die-Off of Sea Creatures on West Coast

From California to Hawaii, the beaches are littered with dying sea creatures, and nobody knows why.  Hundreds of leopard sharks are found dead long the shores of San Francisco Bay, the largest die-off in six years.  Speculation is that the sharks are exposed to fungi in stagnant, shallow waters of the Bay's lagoons and develop brain infections causing to death. However other shark species such as mako and great white are also dying and the cause is not clear.  Unidentified microorganisms have caused multiple brain lesions.

In Southern California mass mortality is spreading to sea birds and marine mammals.  Experts blame domoic acid poisoning caused by algae blooms (Pseudo-nitzschia).  Fish contaminated with domoic acid, a neurotoxin, are eaten by birds and seals which causes seizures and death for those animals that consume them.  Normally Pseudo nitzschia does not produce toxic amounts of domoic acid, but if stressed by temperature changes or excessive carbon doxide in the water, they will begin to produce the neuro-toxin.  Ocean waters are now affected by global warming and acidification.  Observers also point to a massive sewage spill in Tijuana, Mexico as a contributing cause to the increased mortality of sea life in the region.

In Hawaii,millions of baby crustaceans are washing ashore dead, tinting the beaches of Mokuleia pink with their remains.  State officials say the mass die off is unusual but nothing to be alarmed about.  Millions of tiny tuna crabs are also turning the beaches red from San Diego to San Francisco.  Some observers of these signs are not so phlegmatic; they conclude that these extraordinary events are portents of a dying Pacific.