In a concerning development, over 200 dolphins and sea lions have been discovered dead on California’s beaches, with hundreds more showing signs of distress.
Experts believe a toxic algal bloom crisis is responsible for this alarming situation. The west coast has been experiencing poisonous algal blooms, leading to severe neurological issues among marine wildlife.
Witnesses have described disturbing behavior from sea lions, resembling what one observer called “a bad acid trip.” CNN reports that more than 100 sea lions and nearly 100 dolphins are believed to have died due to this crisis.
Organizations are receiving overwhelming distress reports, with beachgoers making approximately 60 reports every hour.
Ruth Dover, co-founder and managing director of the Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute, compared the relentless wave of sea lions and dolphins affected by domoic acid to a recurring tsunami.
Domoic acid, a neurotoxin, accumulates in the food chain, reaching larger mammals and causing mass mortalities. It can even turn the water crimson, leading to the phenomenon known as the “red tide.”
The Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI) has received reports of sea lions exhibiting aggressive behavior towards surfers, divers, people on the sand, and even dogs.
Visitors have been cautioned not to pour water on the sea lions, as it may exacerbate their compromised state and trigger seizures.
CIMWI has also stressed the importance of not touching or feeding the animals, harassing them, or getting too close for selfies.
Violations of these guidelines are considered federal offenses, carrying penalties of up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to one year.
A spokesperson for the institute urged people to keep a safe distance of 50 feet (four car lengths) for their safety and the animal’s well-being.
Residents of Ventura, a coastal city in California, have reported witnessing sea lions displaying abnormal behavior, including biting a diver and repeatedly knocking a paddleboarder off his board.
Justin Greenman, a stranding coordinator with NOAA Fisheries, described the overwhelming number of dead or sick animals as one of the largest in recent memory, with no signs of abating.
Volunteers working tirelessly to rescue these creatures are experiencing exhaustion and emotional strain.
While some federal funding supports these groups, it falls short of meeting their tremendous challenges.
Greenman emphasized the dedication and sacrifice of individuals who have devoted their time and compassion to this cause.
However, the toll is taking its toll, as team members find themselves physically drained and emotionally exhausted.
Witnessing animals suffer from domoic acid is a heart-wrenching experience, and the desire to assist every animal remains strong.
A study published earlier this year revealed a concerning trend. The average annual number of algal blooms increased by 59.2% between 2003 and 2020, equivalent to a 2.19% rise yearly.
This rise in bloom frequency is significantly correlated with rising ocean temperatures, indicating that warmer temperatures have extended bloom-favorable seasons in these temperate seas.
What is an Algal Bloom?
An algal bloom refers to a rapid proliferation of algae in an aquatic system. This phenomenon can occur in both freshwater and marine environments, causing discoloration of the water, turning it yellow, red, or bright green.
Algal blooms often result from an excess of nutrients, promoting the growth of algae and other green plants.
The increased bacterial population consumes dissolved oxygen, leading to decreased oxygen levels that harm fish and aquatic insects, resulting in dead zones.
Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are algal blooms consisting of phytoplankton that naturally produce biotoxins.
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