Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Endangered Fur Seals Dying at Alarming Rate Along California Coast

Animals
Endangered Fur Seals Dying at Alarming Rate Along California Coast

The threatened Guadalupe fur seal is getting stranded on California’s coastline in record numbers, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Of the 80 fur seals, 42 were found dead and only 16 of the 38 found alive survived. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The marine mammals typically spend their time off Mexico’s coast, but at least 80 of the pinnipeds have ended up on California’s shore emaciated, dehydrated or dead. That’s a rate eight times higher than what’s documented in a typical year.

Of the 80 fur seals, 42 were found dead and only 16 of the 38 found alive survived.

The unprecedented occurrence has led NOAA to declare an unusual mortality event for the seals, meaning its scientists will devote more time to studying the species and more samples from rescued animals will be evaluated.

The fur seal’s struggles come during the same year that a record 3,500 California sea lions have washed ashore along California’s coast.

Scientists think the unusually warm waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean could be affecting the health of marine mammals. The large swath of unseasonably hot water is wreaking havoc on everything from Washington’s crabs to Oregon’s algae and it could be pushing fish species that seals and sea lions rely on as food sources farther north than the animals can travel.

At the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, the rescue facility took in four Guadalupe fur seals between January and May. Executive Director Keith Matassa says there haven’t been any reports since then.

“That’s actually more than we typically rescue in a year anyway,” he said and 2015 has been a record year for overall marine mammal recoveries for the facility. “Look at our averages from 1998 to 2014 and we rescue about 188 sea lions and elephant seals a year. For 2015, we’re already at 535 rescues.”

Right now, it’s the slow season. Adult seals and sea lions are out at their rookeries, taking care of their newborn pups, most of which were born in June and July. At about six months old, the pups start to venture out on their own and that’s when the reports start flooding in.

“Hopefully they wait until November or December—when they’re a little more capable of taking care of themselves,” Matassa said.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Supermoon Sparked Rhino Killing Spree as Poaching Numbers Skyrocket

700 Beehives Hang Off This Rocky Cliff to Boost Dwindling Bee Populations

World’s Largest Wildlife Corridor to Be Built in California

WATCH: Kayaking Duo Struck by Humpback Whale

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less
A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less
The Mountain Valley Pipeline proposes to carry natural gas for hundreds of miles over dozens of water sources, through protected areas and crossing the Appalachian Trail. Appalachian Trail Conservancy / YouTube

It's been a bad summer for fracked natural gas pipelines in North Carolina.

Read More Show Less
Atlantic puffins courting at Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge in 2009. USFWS / Flickr

When Europeans first arrived in North America, Atlantic puffins were common on islands in the Gulf of Maine. But hunters killed many of the birds for food or for feathers to adorn ladies' hats. By the 1800s, the population in Maine had plummeted.

Read More Show Less
Rescue workers dig through the rubble following a gas explosion in Baltimore, Maryland on Aug. 10, 2020. J. Countess / Getty Images

A "major" natural gas explosion killed two people and seriously injured at least seven in Baltimore, Maryland Monday morning.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The recalled list includes red, yellow, white and sweet yellow onions, which may be tainted with salmonella. Pxhere

Nearly 900 people across the U.S. and Canada have been sickened by salmonella linked to onions distributed by Thomson International, the The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less