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Sea Lion and Dolphin Deaths Along Southern California Coast Linked to Toxic Algae

Sea Lion and Dolphin Deaths Along Southern California Coast Linked to Toxic Algae

Sea Lion and Dolphin Deaths Along Southern California Coast Linked to Toxic Algae

One call after another came in about sea lions moving their heads back and forth, foaming at the mouth, or just lying on the beach like they were dead.

Rescuers on the central California coast were having a hard time keeping up as they tried to catch sick animals to save them. There had already been the deaths of hundreds of sea lions and dozens of dolphins.

The marine mammals, which are called “sentinel” species because they tell people about the health of the ocean, are thought to be getting sick from a plague of harmful algae that happens naturally but can be made worse by human activity.

The algae Pseudo-Nietzsche makes a neurotoxin called domoic acid. It moves up the food chain from anchovies to sea lions and dolphins, where it causes lethargy, confusion, vomiting, bulging eyes, muscle spasms, seizures, and, in the worst cases, death. All along the coast from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo County, sick animals are washing up on the beach.

The tweet below verifies the news:

Rescue workers say it’s one of the worst cases of mass poisoning they’ve ever seen. This is only June.

“It’s been really sad,” said Michelle Berman Kowalewski, a biologist and the head of the Channel Islands Cetacean Research Unit, a nonprofit that has been helping the beached dolphins.

Algal blooms happen often, but Ms. Berman Kowalewski said that even in a bad year, she might have to help 30–40 dolphins that have been poisoned. “This year, we have been averaging about 10 animals a day for the last 10 days,” she said.

At the same time, more than 1,000 worried beachgoers have told the Channel Island Marine and Wildlife Institute about dead or sick marine mammals.

This institute is a protection group that saves and heals marine animals. Volunteers have gone to the calls and caught the animals in nets so that they can be taken to the center of the school to get help.

Ruth Dover, who is in charge of the Wildlife Institute, told the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “We are doing our best to keep up with the fast pace.” “Please keep telling us about sick or hurt marine mammals, as we are helping as many as we can, as quickly as we can, every day,” she said.

Conservation groups are still waiting for test results to find out what is making the animals sick. However, the animals’ symptoms and the high levels of domoic acid from Orange County to San Luis Obispo County suggest that the poison is to blame.

Algal blooms happen naturally, but it is thought that human actions that disrupt ecosystems are making them happen more often and with more force. The NOAA says that pollution and climate change are two examples of this.

In August, dozens of sea lions got stuck on land after a similar event. In 2015 and 2007, the toxin also killed a lot of sea species.

Domoic acid doesn’t hurt people unless they eat contaminated fish like mussels or crabs that have it in them. The California Department of Public Health keeps a close eye on toxic substances in fishing and sometimes closes them down.

Last week, the department told people not to eat mussels, clams, or scallops that were caught for fun in Santa Barbara County because they had “dangerous levels” of domoic acid. There is also a ban on these kinds of mussels from the coast of California.

The dolphin scientist, Ms. Berman Kowalewski, said that she and her team were overworked right now, but that they would keep answering the desperate calls and try to learn more about dolphins in the hopes that the algal bloom will go away in the long run.

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“I’m tired. I’m tired,” Ms. Berman Kowalewski said. “Another way I look at it, though, is that things like this don’t happen very often. So, when things like this happen, it’s important to learn as much as we can.”

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