Jun 14

Alarms raised on West Coast over unprecedented die-off of nearly endangered marine mammals — More have washed up in last few months than during all of recorded history combined — Experts scrambling to deal with latest wildlife crisis in Pacific — Official: “What’s going to happen next?” (VIDEO) (ENENews, June 10, 2015):

Press Democrat (Sonoma County), Jun 7, 2015 (emphasis added): Fur seal strandings on California coast raise alarmIn what’s already a grim year along California’s shores for marine wildlife, concern is growing about rare fur seals that are turning up, weak and emaciated… [They’re] rarely seen anywhere close to land… About 50 or 60 strandings have been reported so far, with exact numbers unavailable… crews have scrambled to deal with the new crisis… Guadalupe fur seals… are listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species List… the impact of large-scale losses could be significant, said Moe Flannery [Calif. Academy of Sciences]… The stranding surge comes amid a scramble to address a variety of issues among marine mammals…  they recovered 33 dead animals in April and May alone… The most Guadalupe fur seals the [Marine Mammal Center] hospital has seen in a given year is four, though usually it’s two or fewer… currently [it] has 14 Guadalupe fur seals and has lost 11 since mid-February…

Justin Viezbicke, NOAA: “We’re kind of all hands on deck for the stranding community right now.”

Shawn Johnson, Marine Mammal Center director: “These little guys are coming in at, basically, birth weight… They’re extremely emaciated… This is the first time this has ever happened for us, so it’s a surprise… and it’s something to be concerned about for the fur seal pups, but also for what’s going to happen next.”

Sue Pemberton, CA Academy of Sciences:

  • May 21: Dead Guadalupe fur seal pup #29, since April 4th. Unprecedented in my 21 years of working with marine mammals
  • May 11: The #guadalupefurseal die-off has kicked in to high gear with #10 in the last week. This is a big hit for these guys
  • May 7: Collected two more Guadalupe fur seals today as the die-off continues

NOAA (pdf), Jun 1, 2015: Q: Have other marine mammals been affected by this stranding event? A: Yes, there has been an increase in Guadalupe fur seal strandings.

NBC Bay Area, May 27, 2015: Scientists are concerned about the impact of the die-off on the endangered Guadalupe fur seal.

Tenaya Norris, Marine Mammal Center, 2014-2015 Pacific Anomalies Science and Technology Workshop, May 6, 2015 (at 3:02:30):

  • “Usually we don’t see very many of these [Guadalupe fur seals], 0-5 every year since our records began in 1975. This year we’ve had, I think it’s now 16 of these guys… This is a dramatic increase from one year to the next, and from a pretty flat line.”
  • Slide: Record number of Guadalupe fur seal strandings in 2015 — Expected to do slightly better with warm waters – Really bad out there

According to Norris’ graphic on Guadalupe fur seal strandings, only 62 have been documented in the 30 years since record keeping began. The Press Democrat reports “50 or 60 strandings… with exact numbers unavailable” for the first 5 months of 2015.

Watch Norris’ presentation here | NBC broadcast here

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