Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The 'Blob' Proved Deadly

US Person posted about "the Blob" in 2015 {15.08.15] . The Blob was a mass of unusually warm water off the northern Pacific coast starting in 2013 that disrupted the usual westerly jet stream pattern and caused unusual weather events in the United States such as ice storms in Texas. More drastically, the Blob interfered with the normal food chain in the ocean. Warm waters are less productive of zooplankton, which thrives in cold water, thus reducing food for fish and other animals farther up the food chain such as marine mammals.  A marine mammal scientist predicted, “I would expect that you’d start to see [lower birth rates] in the next year [2015],”  When food is scarce, “the first thing you do is save yourself,” he says.

Sadly, that prediction proved accurate.  The anchovy fishery collapsed off southern California.  Anchovies are the favorite prey of sea lions.  Sea lions turned to rockfish as a substitute, but it does not have the same nutritional value as oily anchovies.  Consequently nursing sea lion mothers were unable to properly feed their young.  Thousands of sea lion pups died of starvation.  Their emaciated bodies littered the beaches.  The number of strandings exploded in 2015 to 2500, about ten times the usual annual rate.  Fortunately, the California sea lion population is large, about 300,000, so the species can weather the disaster.

Sea lions were not the only species affected by the weird ocean conditions causing a lack of food.  Sea birds living on the Farallons, off San Francisco, did not make an effort to breed.  More whales than usual got ensnared in crabbing equipment in 2016 because they followed the remaining anchovies close to shore.  The Blob phenomenon has passed for now, but scientists say it can happen again with the same disastrous results for marine wildlife