Monday June 19, 2023

NOAA Fisheries

The rapid growth of harmful algae along parts of the Southern California Coast is believed to have killed hundreds of California sea lions and close to 60 dolphins in the first weeks of June.

The Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute has fielded more than 1,000 reports of sick and dead marine mammals from June 8 through June 14, said Ruth Dover, co-founder and Managing Director. The Institute is part of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which is coordinated by NOAA Fisheries and responds to live marine mammal strandings in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

“We are managing more than 200 reports of marine mammals in distress each day,” Dover said. “We are doing the best we can to keep up with the intense pace. Please continue to report all sick and injured marine mammals as we are getting to as many animals as we can, as quickly as we can, each day.”

The rapid growth of the algae Pseudo-nitzschia causes the production of a neurotoxin called domoic acid. This leads to animal strandings, as the toxin is transferred into the marine food web. Seabirds and marine mammals, such as sea lions and dolphins, ingest the toxin when they eat affected prey. Stranding responders believe domoic acid is behind the deaths given the neurological symptoms exhibited by the animals. They have collected tissue samples for testing to confirm.

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