– Officials: “Such a bizarre thing” off California coast — “We’re seeing multiple aborted fetuses every day” — 100,000s of seabirds that nest in area now missing… “Huge, unprecedented die-off like we’ve never seen” — Many baby seals dying after mothers led them to a cliff edge… “Brutal to watch” (AUDIO) (ENENews, April 9, 2015):
KQED Science, Apr 5, 2015 (emphasis added): About thirty miles out from the Golden Gate, the federally protected Farallones are breeding grounds visited by hundreds of thousands of seabirds – many of which use the islands as a winter way station — but not this year. Gerry McChesney, manager of the site for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says that’s a bad sign not just for the Farallon Islands but also for wildlife more broadly along California’s coast. There was also hardship for breeding marine mammals. Dozens of pregnant sea lions proved too weak to carry their pups to term “That’s such a bizarre thing,” McChesney says. “We were seeing multiple aborted fetuses every day,” 94 in total – or nearly half the number of sea lions born there in 2014. Nor was the warm winter kind to elephant seal pups. Russ Bradley, Farallon program manager for Point Blue Conservation Science, says elephant seal mothers, trying to cool off amid the unusual heat, led their pups up to a cliff that, while breezy, proved perilous – “and actually had a fair amount of pups fall into this sea channel, because they’re pups and they’re clumsy and they got too close to the edge.” “It is pretty brutal for the biologists out here that had to watch it,” McChesney says. “It was pretty tough.” Among the conspicuously absent birds was a type called Cassin’s Auklet, which feeds on krill. All along the Pacific coast, McChesney says, these birds have been suffering “a huge, unprecedented die-off like we’ve never seen” for want of food. That’s also bad news for other species that eat krill, he says, from salmon to blue whales.
– ‘Mystery disease’ on Pacific coast of Alaska — Livers ‘crumble’… Hearts enlarged, pale… Yellow lymph nodes… Blood-filled lungs (PHOTOS) — Professor: Worrying there’s no answers, big public health concern — Testing carcasses for Fukushima radioactivity (AUDIO)
KNOM, May 14, 2014: Mysterious illness that’s been plaguing seals [first hit] the Bering Strait and the North Slope starting in the summer of 2011. Up to 300 seals were found suffering from hair loss, skin sores, and unusually lethargic behavior. Dozens of walruses were also found with similar sores [causing] marine mammal regulators to declare an Unusual Mortality Event […] walrus have been taken off the UME […] Seals [are still] displaying hair loss […] University of Alaska Fairbanks have begun testing infected seal carcasses for [Fukushima] radiation […] Results should be released in July.
Gay Sheffield, University of Alaska Fairbanks: The lack of answers is worrying. “This has been a big food security, public health concern.”
NOAA (pdf), May 12, 2014: UME will remain open for ice seals (ringed seals, ribbon seals, bearded seals, spotted seals) — based on continued reports of […] disease symptoms
– Over 50 dead seals, sea lions, whales, walrus recently stranded in Alaska — Dozens of seals suffering from baldness, skin sores — Experts: “Marine transported Fukushima radionuclides… may represent a new stressor to ecosystem” (ENENews, May 6, 2014):
Poster for Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Jan. 20, 2014: Based on modeled radionuclide concentrations the dose to Northern Pinnipeds on ice was less than the ERICA risk assessment no-effects level of 10 uGy/hr with the following caveats: 1) Source terms for the Fukushima nuclear accident release vary greatly creating uncertainty in the models. 2) Knowledge gaps exist on extrapolating radiation dose to marine mammals. 3) Exposure to hot particles was not addressed. 4) Cannot rule out that increased radiological exposure in combination with a mixture of other contaminants represented an immunotoxic and thyroid disease risk during the period the animals were living on the ice. 5) Ionizing radiation associated risk for skin defects (i.e. epilation, skin lesions) due to contact and external exposure can also not be excluded. *Marine transported Fukushima radionuclides entering the Bering and Chukchi Seas in the future may represent a new stressor to the ecosystem.
– Alarm as record numbers of seals & sea lions ‘starving to death’ along California coast — “It’s just spiked… calls started coming nonstop” — “So many unhealthy… washing ashore” — “Extremely complex issue… multitude of factors in play” — “Definitely a mystery, we’re hoping it’s not the new norm” (ENENews, May 4, 2014):
Orange County Register, May 2, 2014: Sea lions are […] washing ashore, many of them pups dehydrated, malnourished and on the brink of death. The year started off quieter than last year, and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center’s director of development, Melissa Sciacca, thought they were in the clear – until about a month ago, when the calls started coming in nonstop. […] “We thought it was going to be a nice calm year; in the last month it’s just spiked,” she said. “The rescues just keep coming in at a steady pace.” It’s the second year stranded sea lions have been reported in alarming numbers. […] Last year, scientists tested for radioactivity, and it was determined that wasn’t the cause, and infectious disease was also ruled out.
Title: Bird Flu Not Responsible For Alaska Ice Seal, Walrus Illness
Source: KNOM Alaska
Author: Laureli Kinneen
Date: August 1, 2012
Scientists say a type of bird flu – H3N8 – is responsible for the death of the more than 160 harbor seals on the East Coast [New England area, from Maine to Massachusetts]. Reports of sick seals began in September, which coincided with the reports of diseased seals in Alaska’s northern coasts. KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen reports there is no relation between the avian flu on the East Coast and the disease affecting iced seals and walrus in Alaska.
Kinneen: Based on hunter observation, it is a new disease syndrome that we are observing, because based on traditional knowledge, as well as communication from the hunters, they had never seen anything like this before.
The researchers have not ruled out the radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear accident as the cause […]
[Dr. Raphaela Stimmelmayr, a wildlife veterinarian and research biologist with the Department of Wildlife Management, has been one of the leading professionals trying learn more about what is happening to the seals] says they are now looking at whether the diseased seals carried cesium-134 and -137 […]
Cesium-134 is the signature radionuclide that was released during the Fukushima accident.
People on the north coast of Labrador say scores of dead seals have been washing ashore since early December.
A conservation officer with the area’s Inuit government estimated late last week that hundreds of adult and young seals have died in the area between Hopedale and Makkovik this winter.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is testing the carcasses, but Nunatsiavut conservation officer Ian Winters said many people in the area believe DFO hasn’t acted quickly enough.
“I think they should have been up here earlier, if you’re asking me. A lot of people said the same thing. So, maybe it’s not on top of their agenda,” he said.