Amid seal and sea lion boom, group calls for hunt on B.C. coast

Quickest way to reverse declining salmon stocks is to introduce a harvest: Pacific Balance Pinnipeds Society

Some fishermen want to see a cull of sea lions and seals which they say are overpopulated on the B.C. coast. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

For the first time in decades, a small-scale seal hunt is taking place on Canada’s West Coast — all in the hopes that it leads to the establishment of a commercial industry to help control booming seal and sea lion populations and protect the region’s fish stocks.

In early November, a group called the Pacific Balance Pinnipeds Society (PBPS) started using First Nations hunting rights as part of a plan to harvest 30 seals. The society plans to test the meat and blubber to see if it’s fit for human consumption and other uses.

“We can look at opening up harvesting and starting a new industry,” said Tom Sewid, the society’s director and a commercial fisherman. “Since the [West Coast] seal cull ended in the 1970s, the population has exploded.”

Sewid, a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw group of Indigenous peoples, points out that the animals have been hunted for thousands of years. Recent decades with little or no hunting have been an anomaly, he said, pointing to research that shows seal numbers are even higher now than in the 1800s.

Out go the nets, in come the sea lions

What’s become an ongoing battle between humans and sea lions played out on a recent nighttime fishing expedition, when Sewid and a crew of commercial fishermen set out in a 24-metre seine boat to fish for herring off the coast of Parksville, B.C.

The crew’s goal was to catch about 100 tonnes of herring, which rise to the surface to feed after dark. But the faint barking of sea lions was soon heard over the thrum of the boat’s diesel engine.

“All them sea lions out there are all happy — [they’re] all yelling, ‘Yahoo, it’s dinner time!'” Sewid said.

Once the crew spotted the herring, they let out hundreds of metres of net, while a smaller boat helped to circle it around the huge mass of fish. The crew then closed the bottom of the net, capturing the herring.

Watch sea lions pillage fishermen’s nets:

CBC News BC
Sea Lions feeding in fishing nets
 WATCH

00:00 00:27

Many Sea Lions are caught in fishing nets, as they try to feed. 0:27

But the catch also provided some uninvited visitors with a captive dinner: Dozens of sea lions jumped over the floats holding up the net and started to gorge.

“These guys, it’s just a buffet for them,” said Sewid, as the bodies of the sea lions glistened in the boat’s floodlights. “Just like pigs at a trough.”

Sewid said the sea lions have learned there’s an easy meal to be had whenever they see or hear the fishing boats.

“They’re not afraid of us. They’ve habituated themselves to seeing that humans and fishing equates easy access to food, which is not right,” he said. “The animal kingdom is not supposed to be like that.”

Restarting a banned hunt

The hunting of seals and sea lions — which are collectively known as pinnipeds — has been banned on the West Coast for more than 40 years. It’s one reason their numbers have exploded along the entire Pacific coastline of North America.

According to one study, the harbour seal population in the Salish Sea is estimated at 80,000 today, up from 8,600 in 1975. The study also says seals and sea lions now eat six times as many chinook salmon as are caught in the region’s commercial and sports fisheries combined.

That adds up to millions of tonnes of commercially valuable fish.

Sewid’s group is proposing to cull current populations of harbour seals and sea lions by half, which would see thousands of the animals killed each year.

Tom Sewid is leading the effort to secure what he calls a sustainable harvest of seals and sea lions along the B.C. coast. (Greg Rasmussen/CBC)

The society’s small-scale “test” harvest is taking place between B.C.’s southern Gulf Islands and as far north as Campbell River, on Vancouver Island. It’s being carried out under the provisions of the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy, which gives some First Nations harvesting and management rights for food and ceremonial purposes.

Testing the meat to see if it’s safe for human consumption is a first step in a plan to eventually gain permission for what the PBPS envisions as a sustainable, humane commercial hunt, which would largely be carried out by coastal First Nations.

“All the meat that’s in there, you’re looking at the high-end restaurants [that would sell it],” Sewid said. “The hides can also be used.”

Seal blubber is particularly valuable, he said, because it can be rendered down into an oil that’s in demand because of its high Omega-3 fatty acid content.

Watch fishing crew struggle to free sea lions entangled in their nets:

CBC News BC
Sea Lions freed from fishing nets
 WATCH

00:00 00:49

Watch as fishing crew struggles to free sea lions trapped in their nets. 0:49

One of the biggest hurdles facing the group is convincing the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to open a commercial hunt on the West Coast.

The seal hunt that takes place in the Atlantic and Arctic is controversial, and has long been subject to protests and fierce opposition from animal rights groups. The group expects a West Coast harvest to also face fierce confrontations.

Canadian Inuit have been waging a counter-campaign, highlighting the importance of the animal and the longstanding tradition of their hunt.

Most Canadian seal products are also banned in Europe and a handful of other countries, but the society says demand is strong in Asia.

Supporters and opponents

The PBPS does have a growing list of supporters, including 110 First Nations groups, a number of commercial fishing organizations, and some sectors of B.C.’s economically important sport fishing sector.

However, one key player, the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C., opposes a large commercial hunt, fearing it would generate public outrage and might not achieve the goal of enhancing fish stocks.

The institute’s director, Martin Paish, says the group sees some value in targeting some seals and other fish predators at specific times of year in a number of key river systems; he believes a limited hunt would help protect salmon stocks and boost the billion-dollar-a-year B.C. sport fishing industry.

“Our goal is to use predator control in a careful manner to improve chinook [salmon] production where it is needed,” said Paish.

Carl Walters is a fish biologist and UBC professor who supports cutting B.C.’s population of seals and sea lions by half. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

Fisheries scientist Carl Walters, a professor emeritus with UBC, believes culling the regions sea lions and seals could dramatically boost salmon stocks. He points to numerous studies showing how pinniped populations have been increasing, while salmon numbers have been plummeting.

“They’re killing a really high percentage of the small salmon shortly after they go into the ocean, about half of the coho smolts and a third of the chinooks,” he said.

Advocates of a hunt are also pitching it as a way to help B.C.’s endangered southern resident killer whales, which feed mainly on salmon.

“The thing that would benefit southern resident killer whales is to see improved survival of small chinook salmon — and I think the only way we can achieve that is by reducing seal numbers,” Walters said.

Peter Ross, from the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, says there would be little benefit to salmon from a seal and sea lion cull. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

Others disagree, including Peter Ross, the vice-president of research and executive director of the Coastal Ocean Research Institute.

“Killing of seals and sea lions is not going to have any positive impact for any salmon populations in coastal British Columbia,” he said.

While a few localized populations of salmon might benefit from a cull, Ross said climate change, habitat destruction and overfishing are all bigger factors in the overall decline of stocks.

Other subspecies of orcas, however, feed mainly on seals, so a hunt would reduce their access to prey.

Back on the boat, Sewid concedes a hunt would be controversial — but he firmly believes it’s necessary.

“All the indicators are there,” he said. “It’s time to get the balance back.”

The fishing crew from the Western Investor are shown harvesting herring in November. But they say they are being hampered by dozens of sea lions in their nets almost every night. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

Sick sea lions appear on area beaches

image - sea lion

This sea lion, Grazer, is seen curled up with his flippers folded tightly over his abdomen prior to his rescue by trained Marine Mammal Center responders in Monterey. The posture is known as “lepto pose” and is an indication the sea lion is suffering the effects of the disease. Photo courtesy of Marine Mammal Center

Sea lions sick with leptospirosis have been showing up on California beaches in near record numbers, the Marine Mammal Center reports. As a result, staff and volunteers at the center have been busy in a normally quiet time of the year. 

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that was first diagnosed in sea lions in the 1970s, says center Director of Veterinary Science Dr. Shawn Johnson. It can be present in humans and other mammals as well, but a strain that affects marine mammals — and sea lions in particular — is sickening the pinnipeds at a rate not seen since 2004. The center has confirmed more than 250 sea lions have come under its care because of the disease so far this year and the number continues to climb. 

“We’re still rescuing animals every day,” Johnson said recently. “So we could easily become the largest outbreak.” 

The center sees cases of leptospirosis every year but the outbreaks appear to be cyclical with a large one showing up every five years or so. The last notable one was in 2011 and infected nearly 200 sea lions, according to the center. 

While sea lions with the disease are showing up along the entire California coastline, Johnson says there appears to be more in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. He adds that there are generally more sea lions in this area this time of year so that doesn’t necessarily point to the region as being more susceptible to the disease. 

Of the roughly 220 infected sea lions identified in October, about 30 had been found along the San Mateo County coast, Johnson said, noting that his office receives calls for about five sickened sea lions per day. 

Now, in late November, the center reports that the rate of incoming sick sea lions has slowed. But, with the number of leptospirosis-infected sea lions topping 250, this cycle still comes in as the second-highest outbreak ever recorded.  Sea lions with the disease are often found with their flippers tucked in and their bodies scrunched in response to abdominal pain. The disease affects their kidneys which may prompt them to drink seawater or eat the sand in response to the reflex that’s telling them to drink, Johnson said. 

Normally, marine mammals do not consume water directly as they get all the hydration from the fish they eat. 

As part of their treatment back at the Marin-based center, the sea lions receive fresh water, antibiotics and other support. In spite of this treatment, roughly two-thirds of the sick sea lions will die from their infections, according to the center. 

The cause of the periodic outbreaks is not entirely clear but could be attributed to changes in ocean temperature, migration shifts or a lack of herd immunity. 

The center has partnered with researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, to better understand the outbreaks. The researchers are collecting blood and urine samples from young sea lions at Año Nuevo to determine whether they have any evidence of kidney disease or antibodies that could point to previous exposure to the disease. 

Scientists are puzzled by the fact that sea lions appear to be more likely to catch the disease than other pinnipeds. 

“Why are sea lions so susceptible to this infection whereas elephant seals and harbor seals aren’t?” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions.” 

Because a sea lion with leptospirosis could potentially pass on its infection to humans, beachgoers are asked to keep their distance. 

Beachgoers who see a sick sea lion are asked to call the Marine Mammal Center rescue line, (415) 289-7325. 

The center is also looking for volunteers to help monitor the beaches for sick animals or to help out at the Marin headquarters. 

For more information on volunteering, visit the Marine Mammal Center website at www.marinemammalcenter.org.

New group calls for seal and sea lion cull on B.C.’s coast

Some B.C. First Nations and fishermen want the government to establish a new seal hunt on the west coast. As Jill Bennett reports, their reasons for the new hunt are being met with skepticism by opponents.

– A A +

Members of the Tsawwassen First Nation are teaming up with commercial and sport-fishers on B.C.’s coast to call on the new federal fisheries minister to allow a West Coast seal and sea lion harvest. The group, called the Pacific Balance Pinnipeds Society, says that growing populations of seals and sea lions endangers future salmon populations.

“If we want to see salmon around for our next generations, we have to go out there and bring that balance to the animal kingdom,” said Thomas Sewid, the director of the newly established society. “To go out, harvest those seals, utilize the whole carcass so the meats are going to markets in Europe and China, the fat is being rendered down for the omega 3s.”

WATCH HERE: Pod of hungry orcas hunt for sea lion between boats


The federal government has banned the cull of seals and sea lions on the West Coast since the 1970s, which still exists on the East Coast. The group is hoping to have a change in policy now that Jonathan Wilkinson, the MP for North Vancouver, is the new fisheries minister.

“I think we are going to see the balance to our oceans and our waters come back in place because of that minister,” said Sewid. “He understands. He has been out sport-fishing. He has seen big fat sea lions tear salmon off his hooks.”

READ MORE: Sea lion pulls young girl into water off Steveston Wharf in Richmond, B.C.

Sea lions are known to be aggressive, not just to animal populations, but towards humans as well. Last May, a sea lion that swam near Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf snagged a little girl by her dress and pulled her into the water. There were multiple Steveston Harbour Authority signs posted at the popular tourist destination warning people not to feed the sea mammals that frequent the area.

But there is some disagreement on how large an effect seals and sea lions actually have on the fish populations.

Scientists at Ocean Wise say their research does not support the idea a harbour seal cull improves the abundance of Chinook salmon in B.C. The scientist describes the fish population as “complex” and that the seal population has recovered from historical culls, and is no longer increasing significantly.

READ MORE: Hunters call for more licences, possible seal cull to combat growing population off N.L.

“Studies show only four per cent of the harbour seal diet is salmon. Herring and hake are their primary prey, with hake making up about 40 per cent of their diet,” said a statement from Ocean Wise. “Hake is actually a big salmon smolt predator, so a seal cull could actually have the opposite of its intended effect: by reducing the number of seals, the abundance of hake would likely increase, resulting in decreased salmon numbers overall.”

We also have a healthy and growing population of transient, or Biggs, killer whales, which eat marine mammals like seals and sea lions. So harbour seals are already being culled very effectively without any human interference at all. Reducing the seal population in the Salish Sea would mean a reduction in food for transient killer whales.

READ MORE: WATCH: Sea lion feeding frenzy on commercial herring catch

Ocean Wise has also found that with an increase in transient killer whales, which eat seals, the population is expected to slowly decline over time.

But Sewid’s group has provided numbers from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans that show a massive population boom that needs to be controlled. According to those numbers, harbour seals in the Georgia Straight have gone up from 12,500 in 1987 to 45,000 today.

As for sea lions, those same numbers from the population grew on B.C.’s coast from 13,000 in 1984 to 36,140 in 1997.

The populations have slowed since the mid-1990s, and has been relatively stable since. One of the challenges Sewid says in convincing people that the animals should be culled is that they look “cute.”

“They don’t understand that seals and sea lions are eating hundreds of salmon fry when the fry are going out to sea, down the rivers and when the salmon are coming home to spawn, those overpopulations over seals and sea lions are eating all that fish,” said Sewid. “We have to bring that balance on.”

— With files from Jill Bennett

Sea lion that was shot in the head euthanized after health takes downturn

steller sea lion uclueletThe adult male Steller sea lion was found unresponsive but still alive with a bullet on his skull on a rocky shoreline of Ucluelet last Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Marine Mammal Rescue Centre Handout)

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https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/sea-lion-that-was-shot-in-the-head-euthanized-after-health-takes-downturn-1.4151840
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Friday, October 26, 2018 4:53PM PDT 
Last Updated Friday, October 26, 2018 5:16PM PDT

A sea lion rescued in Ucluelet after being shot in the head earlier this month has died at a Vancouver recovery centre, veterinarians say.

The Steller sea lion dubbed “Ukee” was euthanized after spending two weeks in critical care at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

Head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena said the choice to put down the sea lion was difficult, but had to be made.

“He wasn’t responding to treatment, and his condition had taken a significant downturn in the last two days,” Haulena said in a statement. “At this point we had to evaluate his quality of life. Although we are disappointed we couldn’t return him to full health, we are glad we could end his suffering and make his final days more comfortable.”

Ukee was found on a rocky shoreline of Ucluelet with gunshot wounds to his head and was severely emaciated. Experts said the 8 to 10-year-old sea lion also appeared to be blind and unable to forage for any food.

On Oct. 11, a massive team of personnel including staff from the rescue centre, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada and other local volunteers staged an operation to rescue the animal.

At under 350 kilograms, he was far under normal weight for adult Steller sea lions, but was still the biggest animal ever admitted to the rescue centre, staff said.

After Ukee was rescued, Haulena had strong words for whoever may have shot him.

“This is clearly a serious animal welfare issue,” he said at the time. “It is unacceptable to shoot sea lions. Based on his body condition, this individual has been suffering for many weeks.”

Anyone who sees a marine mammal in distress is asked to immediately report it to the rescue centre at 604-258-7325 or the DFO hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

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New group calls for seal and sea lion cull on B.C.’s coast

Some B.C. First Nations and fishermen want the government to establish a new seal hunt on the west coast. As Jill Bennett reports, their reasons for the new hunt are being met with skepticism by opponents.

– A A +

Members of the Tsawwassen First Nation are teaming up with commercial and sport-fishers on B.C.’s coast to call on the new federal fisheries minister to allow a West Coast seal and sea lion harvest. The group, called the Pacific Balance Pinnipeds Society, says that growing populations of seals and sea lions endangers future salmon populations.

“If we want to see salmon around for our next generations, we have to go out there and bring that balance to the animal kingdom,” said Thomas Sewid, the director of the newly established society. “To go out, harvest those seals, utilize the whole carcass so the meats are going to markets in Europe and China, the fat is being rendered down for the omega 3s.”

WATCH HERE: Pod of hungry orcas hunt for sea lion between boats


The federal government has banned the cull of seals and sea lions on the West Coast since the 1970s, which still exists on the East Coast. The group is hoping to have a change in policy now that Jonathan Wilkinson, the MP for North Vancouver, is the new fisheries minister.

“I think we are going to see the balance to our oceans and our waters come back in place because of that minister,” said Sewid. “He understands. He has been out sport-fishing. He has seen big fat sea lions tear salmon off his hooks.”

READ MORE: Sea lion pulls young girl into water off Steveston Wharf in Richmond, B.C.

Sea lions are known to be aggressive, not just to animal populations, but towards humans as well. Last May, a sea lion that swam near Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf snagged a little girl by her dress and pulled her into the water. There were multiple Steveston Harbour Authority signs posted at the popular tourist destination warning people not to feed the sea mammals that frequent the area.

But there is some disagreement on how large an effect seals and sea lions actually have on the fish populations.

Scientists at Ocean Wise say their research does not support the idea a harbour seal cull improves the abundance of Chinook salmon in B.C. The scientist describes the fish population as “complex” and that the seal population has recovered from historical culls, and is no longer increasing significantly.

READ MORE: Hunters call for more licences, possible seal cull to combat growing population off N.L.

“Studies show only four per cent of the harbour seal diet is salmon. Herring and hake are their primary prey, with hake making up about 40 per cent of their diet,” said a statement from Ocean Wise. “Hake is actually a big salmon smolt predator, so a seal cull could actually have the opposite of its intended effect: by reducing the number of seals, the abundance of hake would likely increase, resulting in decreased salmon numbers overall.”

We also have a healthy and growing population of transient, or Biggs, killer whales, which eat marine mammals like seals and sea lions. So harbour seals are already being culled very effectively without any human interference at all. Reducing the seal population in the Salish Sea would mean a reduction in food for transient killer whales.

READ MORE: WATCH: Sea lion feeding frenzy on commercial herring catch

Ocean Wise has also found that with an increase in transient killer whales, which eat seals, the population is expected to slowly decline over time.

But Sewid’s group has provided numbers from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans that show a massive population boom that needs to be controlled. According to those numbers, harbour seals in the Georgia Straight have gone up from 12,500 in 1987 to 45,000 today.

As for sea lions, those same numbers from the population grew on B.C.’s coast from 13,000 in 1984 to 36,140 in 1997.

The populations have slowed since the mid-1990s, and has been relatively stable since. One of the challenges Sewid says in convincing people that the animals should be culled is that they look “cute.”

“They don’t understand that seals and sea lions are eating hundreds of salmon fry when the fry are going out to sea, down the rivers and when the salmon are coming home to spawn, those overpopulations over seals and sea lions are eating all that fish,” said Sewid. “We have to bring that balance on.”

[Sure, like it’s their job. Nature has been the expert on checks and balances since long before humans.]

U.S. House approves bill to allow killing sea lions

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House passed a bill Tuesday that would allow tribal managers and government fish managers to kill limited numbers of sea lions in the Columbia River to improve the survival of endangered salmon and steelhead populations.

The legislation passed by a vote of 288 to 116.

Under the bill, designated officials would be able to remove some California and Stellar sea lions from specific areas where they are posing the most harm to endangered native fish runs.

The bill is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.

“For the salmon and steelhead fighting to make it upstream, today’s vote in the U.S. House significantly improves their chances of survival,” Beutler said after passage of the bill.

“The passage of my bipartisan bill signals a return to a healthy, balanced Columbia River ecosystem by reining in the unnatural, overcrowded sea lion population that is indiscriminately decimating our fish runs.”

Beutler said supporters of the bill are “not anti-sea lion,” adding, “We’re just for protecting a Pacific Northwest treasure – salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other native fish species iconic to our region.”

A companion bill is moving through the U.S. Senate now, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Joe Stohr, acting director of the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, supported the passage of the bill.

“We appreciate today’s action by the House of Representatives and the efforts of Representatives Herrera Beutler and Schrader to secure the bill’s passage. Sea lion predation on salmon is a complex issue, and we thank them for recognizing the need for action to help recover threatened and endangered populations in the Columbia River.”

Baby sea lion pups are dying because overfishing has left our oceans without enough fish.

Add Your Name Now: Sea Lion Pups Are Starving

Goal: 30,000 Progress: 8,198
Sponsored by: Oceana

A surge of baby sea lions, starving and dehydrated, have washed ashore along the California coast each spring in recent years.

If we don’t take meaningful action now, this crisis will continue. More and more pups will arrive each day.Emaciated and weak, most of them will die.

Overfishing sardines during a natural population decline has severely reduced the number of these forage fish that sea lions rely on. Unless people like you fight back, vulnerable sea lion pups will continue to starve and die.

Add your name to save starving sea lion pups and protect the world’s oceans with Oceana.

Sign Here

Dear Pacific Fishery Management Council:

California sea lion pups have been found stranded on beaches during spring months in recent years. Many died and many others were found underweight, dehydrated, and starving. Their mothers were not finding enough forage fish to eat. They were spending more time away from their pups foraging, farther from shore, and the nursing sea lion pups were in turn, starving to death.

Approximately three times as many sea lions washed ashore in 2015 compared to 2013, when the severity of strandings emerged as an issue of great concern. About 90 percent of sea lion pups were estimated to have died last year before reaching weaning age.

More must be done to ensure there is adequate forage fish to support a healthy and abundant food web in the Pacific Ocean.

I am greatly concerned that management of the commercial forage fish fisheries off California, Oregon and Washington is leaving ocean wildlife without enough fish to eat. Sea lions, whales, pelicans, and many other species rely on these same forage fish for a large part of their diet. Pacific sardine and Northern anchovy populations are at historically low levels and are some of the most important forage fish in the California Current ocean ecosystem. Immediate, lasting action is needed to prevent future overfishing and to help these forage fish populations rebuild to healthy and abundant levels.

I urge you to take immediate measures to fix the Pacific sardine management framework, prevent Northern anchovy overfishing, and ensure abundant forage fish populations for dependent predators. Ocean wildlife and coastal communities don’t have time to wait.

Sincerely,

http://theanimalrescuesite.greatergood.com/clickToGive/ars/petition/Oceana-SeaLionPups/#QiekbhEgBlxe6YtJ.01

This could explain all those strange happenings in Alaska’s waters

Bears feeding on a fin whale carcass in Larson Bay, Alaska. Photo: NOAA© Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post Bears feeding on a fin whale carcass in Larson Bay, Alaska. Photo: NOAA

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/this-could-explain-all-those-strange-happenings-in-alaska%e2%80%99s-waters/ar-BBpA0Cf?ocid=spartanntp

The Washington Post
by Ryan Schuessler

New research is shedding light on how far toxic algae blooms have spread in Alaska, and surprised scientists are saying this is just the beginning.

A study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest fisheries center found domoic acid and saxitoxin – algae-produced neurotoxins that are deadly in high doses — in 13 marine mammal species across Alaska, including as far north as the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Researchers say the study is just the latest piece of evidence that warming ocean temperatures are allowing these blooms to stretch into Arctic ecosystems, threatening marine life and the communities who rely on the sea to survive.

“The waters are warming, the sea ice is melting, and we are getting more light in those waters,” said Kathi Lefebvre, NOAA Fisheries research scientist. “Those conditions, without a doubt, are more favorable for algal growth. With that comes harmful algae.”

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The study, which analyzed more than 900 samples taken from stranded or harvested marine mammals in Alaska between 2004 and 2013, found algal toxins in all species sampled, including bowhead whales, fur seals and sea otters.

“We were surprised,” Lefebvre said. “We did not expect these toxins to be present in the food web in high enough levels to be detected in these predators.”

“There seems to be a potential risk for marine mammal health,” she added. “Then there’s also a seafood security risk, in that these communities rely on and depend on these animals for food.”

“I think that’s going to have a huge impact on the Native communities and coastal communities in Alaska,” said Bruce Wright, senior scientist for the Aleutian and Pribilof Island Association, the federally recognized tribal organization of Alaska’s indigenous Aleut citizens. “I think that we’re going to see a number of shifts in our ecosystem as a consequence of warming, and I think some species will be displaced by other species, and others will disappear. There [are] going to be consequences and people are going to have to adapt.”

NOAA’s new study, released last week, comes after months of strange marine life die offs in Alaska. Last year, NOAA declared the deaths of more than 30 whales in the Gulf of Alaska to be an unusual mortality event. Just last month, thousands of dead birds began washing ashore in Prince William Sound.

“I’m pretty sure that’s associated with these algal blooms,” Wright said of the bird die offs and other events. Toxic algal blooms in the region, particularly 2015’s, likely wipe out entire parts of the lower food chain, he added, the effects of which reverberate through the ecosystem.

A massive toxic algal bloom, believed the largest ever recorded, reaped havoc in the Pacific in 2015. Stretching from southern California north to the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea, it prompted the closure of recreational and commercial fisheries across the American and Canadian coastlines.

“It really does point out that there is a need for more monitoring,” Lefebvre said.

Increasingly warm waters in the north Pacific are believed to be behind other strange disease outbreaks as well. A recent study from the University of Puget Sound found that warmer waters in 2014 contributed to an epidemic of sea star wasting disease in the North Pacific, which decimated starfish populations in the north Pacific.

“My thought is, absolutely, the environment is changing very rapidly in Alaska,” Lefebvre said. “And it’s warming, and there are changes in fundamental parts of the ecosystem.”

She added: “And these ecosystems have developed over millions of years, so when they’re rapidly changing, the chances they’re going to be changed for the better, over all, are very slim.”

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/this-could-explain-all-those-strange-happenings-in-alaska%e2%80%99s-waters/ar-BBpA0Cf?ocid=spartanntp

Who is Making More Waves?

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Blind anti-sea lion hatred or anti-cormorant animosity, like anti-wolf bigotry, seems born into in-bred, backwards communities, but it is a product of “nurture,” not nature and will (as with racism and sexism) surely fade away over time.

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The question is, how many of these animals will be left after all the arrogant, narcissistic, speciesist, selfish blood lust is finally appeased?

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And when it comes down to it, who is really making more waves—the sea lions for eating fish as they have for tens of millions of years (not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of MILLIONS) or the humans who are in the process, generally, of destroying the planet by changing the climate, polluting everything from the seas to the air we breathe, overfishing, overhunting, overpopulating and single-handedly bringing to an end the Age of Mammals?

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Hats off to all the good folks with the Sea Lion Defense Brigade who stand up for sea life, despite local animosity, on a daily basis.

 

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson