(NaturalNews) From San Diego to San Francisco, hundreds of sea lions have been washing ashore – dead and dying.
“You could equate it to a war zone,” said Keith Matassa of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, noting that the center gets “hundreds of rescue calls a day.”
In just the first three months of 2015, already more than 1,800 sea lions have washed up on California beaches – 1,100 in March alone. Most of them are starving juveniles, often riddled with parasites or sick from pneumonia. They have even turned up in people’s backyards, apparently desperately seeking food or some kind of assistance.
“There are so many calls, we just can’t respond to them all,” said Justin Viezbicke of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “The reality is, we just can’t get to these animals.”
Prey have vanished
This is the third year in the last five to see abnormally large numbers of strandings. It remains unclear what effect the dying pups will have on the sea lion population over the long term, particularly if the trend keeps up.
Researchers are unsure what has caused the disaster, but they believe it stems from low fish populations along the coastal islands that sea lions use to breed and to care for their young until they are weaned. Because food is so scarce, mother sea lions are spending more time away from the islands hunting. This causes their starving pups – too young to swim far or dive deep enough to hunt for themselves – to flood the coast in search of food.
“They come ashore because if they didn’t, they would drown,” said Shawn Johnson, the director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center. “They’re just bones and skin. They’re really on the brink of death.”
The NOAA and other experts have blamed the lack of prey on warming ocean waters, which has forced the cold-water fish that sea lions prey on farther from the shore. These experts worry that rising global temperatures could have devastating consequences for a species that evolved to use the Channel Islands as one of its only breeding grounds.
“The environment is changing too rapidly,” said Sharon Melin of the National Marine Fisheries Service. “Their life history is so much slower that it’s not keeping up.”
Fukushima partly to blame?
According to Matassa, however, there is no consensus yet on the cause for the disaster.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out is why?” he said. “What’s going on? Where are the fish? Where did they go? Was there a little mini El Nino? Did something happen with the currents that the fish decided to go deeper or further out? They’re not closing the book on any theory.”
According to ENE News, some fishermen are skeptical of the warming water theory, saying that other El Nino years actually had warmer water than this year. These fishermen told reporters that they suspect pollution or habitat destruction may be the cause of the sea lions’ plight.
Could radiation from the Fukushima disaster be one cause? In 2011, multiple reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded, sending a massive radioactive plume spewing into the air and sea. This plume has been steadily moving east across the Pacific Ocean ever since, and is predicted to hit the coast of North America by 2017.
Since then, radioactive material has continued to flow from Fukushima into the Pacific, both accidentally and by design. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has deliberately ejected radioactive water into the ocean to keep it from building up onsite. In addition, the company reports that at least two trillion becquerels worth of material flowed unintentionally into the ocean between August 2013 and May 2014. This occurred at 10 times the release rate permitted prior to the disaster.
(Natural News Science)
Written by David Gutierrez
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