The scene is unsettling! Hundreds of dolphins and sea lions wash up dead or sick in California amid toxic algae outbreak! And it’s not about to end soon!

Hundreds of dolphins and sea lions have washed up dead or sick in California amid toxic algae outbreak
Hundreds of dolphins and sea lions have washed up dead or sick in California amid toxic algae outbreak

Hundreds of sea lions and dolphins are sprawled across the beaches in Southern California, either dead or sick and exhibiting abnormal behaviour.

Officials have received more than 1,000 calls in recent weeks from beachgoers, tourists and residents reporting sick, dying and dead sea mammals washed ashore from Santa Barbara to San Diego County, amid a growing toxic algal bloom in the waters off the coast.

The wave of dead or sick animals is “one of the largest in memory,” Justin Greenman, a stranding coordinator with NOAA Fisheries, told CNN. “It’s completely overwhelming.”

And, Greenman said, it doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.

Marine-life experts believe the harmful algal bloom is to blame, though they are waiting on test results to confirm it. The algae, Pseudo-nitzschia, produces a neurotoxin called domoic acid, which can be poisonous to seabirds and fish once ingested. It can then travel across the food chain to larger marine animals like dolphins, sea lions and even humans.

Like dolphins and sea lions, humans can get sick from domoic acid if they eat contaminated food, although seafood is tested for this toxin to prevent it from reaching dinner tables. The California Department Of Health specifically warned against eating “sport-harvested mussels, clams or scallops from Santa Barbara County” after high-levels of the toxin were detected there.

Ruth Dover, a co-founder and managing director of Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute, which has been fielding hundreds of calls about the strandings, said they have responded to more than 100 dead sea lions and 300 live sea lions exhibiting signs of ingesting domoic acid in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

The death toll for dolphins is now up to 100, the group said, which Greenman describes as unusual – particularly in how this bloom appears to be affecting species that typically dwell far from the shore.

“It’s like the waves of a tsunami keep washing over our local beaches with even more sea lions and dolphins suffering from domoic acid,” Dover told CNN. “We thought last year’s domoic acid event affecting Santa Barbara and Ventura was tragic, but this year’s event is even more horrific.”

“Our beautiful beaches are littered with sick, dying and deceased sea lions and dolphins,” she said.

Tissue samples have been taken for testing to confirm that the domoic acid-producing algae is behind the crisis. But Michael Milstein a spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, told CNN that the situation has “all the hallmarks of an algal bloom.”

Some harmful algal blooms thrive in warm water – making them more of a concern as ocean temperatures climb. But in other cases, like the ongoing bloom in California, it is driven less by water temperatures and more by strong coastal upwelling, which provides more nutrients that feed the algae.

“The water in that area is not especially warm right now, as it was during a similar event last year,” Milstein said. “That does not necessarily mean there is no climate connection, because there remains some possibility that climate change may favour more toxic algae, or influence ocean chemistry in ways that favour domoic acid production.”

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This type of phytoplankton can bloom fast when there are changes to the amount of light and nutrients available. Harmful algal blooms in Southern California have happened in the past, but experts say they have increased in frequency and severity in recent decades, noting that a warming planet may play a role in this.

“It’s just scary, because you normally see the ocean as this source of life, and the idea that we have a poisonous ocean as a result of climate change and human activity is just devastating,” Geoff Shester, California director and senior scientist with Oceana told CNN. “We can warn consumers, but there is no warning that’s going to tell the dolphins and sea lions to avoid these fish.”


The California algal bloom began late in May. But on June 8, Dover said the group started getting calls, online reports, emails and texts “at an overwhelming rate.”

At some points, they were receiving up to 60 reports an hour of marine mammals in distress. That’s more than 300 reports in a day, and a gargantuan task for a small, nonprofit organization made mostly of volunteers.

“It is impossible for our small nonprofit organization to handle this unprecedented volume,” Dover said. “There are cases we cannot get to and it’s not because we don’t care. It’s because there are too many animals stranding with domoic acid for us to physically respond to in a day.”

When stranding reports come in, they dispatch the next available volunteer to drive to the site, walk the beach, find the animal and conduct a physical assessment, which includes photo and video documentation and recording exact geolocation as well as tide and beach conditions.

Carrying and transporting the animals that are still alive is another physical struggle that requires up to six volunteers, depending on the animal’s size, as well as some equipment and gear, according to Dover.

Once they’ve been transported, the rescued animals receive immediate treatment, which includes intense hydration to flush the toxin out of their systems, anti-seizure medication and feeding them with fish that does not contain domoic acid.

“Our team members are physically tired and emotionally drained,” Dover said. “It is really difficult to watch an animal suffering from domoic acid, and we want to help each and every one of them.”

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Mortality rates with adult sea lions have been significant, Dover said. And despite their treatment, many are dying either at the beach or even during transport to their facility for care. The mammals are experiencing multiple grand mal seizures and brain damage from the toxin, she said.

Same thing along some beaches in Florida, where unusually large patches of a floating seaweed called sargassum are clogging beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, giving off a foul odour when they decompose and potentially affecting human and animal health.

Dover said while they are still rescuing adult sea lions, they are trying to focus their limited manpower on rescuing young animals that may have ingested less of the toxin-laced fish.

Beyond Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, NOAA’s Greenman said the impacts of the algae are expanding to Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. Dover’s group is just one of the many organizations that is a member of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Network, which is overseen by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries.

“[The groups] do receive some federal funding, but that’s really a small drop in the bucket,” Greenman said. “But we’ve got a lot of people who’ve devoted so much of their time and their hearts, and it’s started to take its toll.” [CNN]

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  1. What if this along with red tide could be mitigated by wait for it rubber ducks?Larger size ones are used for charity duck races.They can be handled even in strong currents tides They are corralled by nets that don’t go to the bottom.
    It wouldn’t disturb ocean life.They are relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to find.
    Could easily block a decent amount of sunlight which algae and the like need.
    I would suggest the plastic balls they use in desert regions for mitigating water loss.
    I think they may be too heavy awkward.Also more expensive

  2. What they won’t tell you is that the oceans in California are toxic due to the Mexican government dumping human and toxic waste into the water on a regular basis. And Newsom dumping California’s toxins into the Pacific. Democrats hate nature, wildlife and despise the earth and its environment. Which is why they drive electric cars.

  3. It’s not raw sewage and it’s not global warming. It’s solar radiation management! SRM for short, is the intentional and profuse spraying of toxic, heavy metals into our atmosphere. The particles are so small that they go undetected by the filters which screen for air quality. They are nanosized metals of mostly aluminum with barium and strontium sprayed into the sky by jet tankers to the tune of about 30 million tons per year. They fall to the earth destroying the soil biome and sink into the root systems of trees (most trees are dead or dying in many parts of the world) Please continue to read, surprise ending.

    The biggest lie ever told by the media to we the people is that these visible lines criss crossing each other in the sky and spreading out into a dense haze before falling to the earth are harmless water vapor trails or CONtrails. The most amazing part about this lie is that it is BELIEVED by most people today!!! They have fallen for the lies that the lap-dog, bought and paid for media – in all its forms – spews and don’t consider that our world is being MURDERED and those destroying it are guilty of mass genocide of all life on earth including US. Let’s see…who might be behind such activity??? Ahh, maybe the ENEMY of God and mankind, satan? Mark that and know that we are in the very last days of this age. Everything that comes across the news media is a LIE to hide the agenda of creating a ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT for antichrist.

    I write whenever I’m led and I just let my fingers fly, sharing what I have learned in my insatiable quest for TRUTH in this world I present my testimony to the truth. I am led to tell whoever might come by this comment that God has told us beforehand what to expect in the next several years in His written word, the Bible. The prophecy says that those who believe the truth, (the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and have been born again (John 3:16) washed by the Shed Blood of Jesus Christ – God in the Flesh – will soon be removed from this earth in the long awaited “catching away of the saints” or Rapture of the church. (church = all saved by Christ Jesus)

    Immediately after millions of people disappear, a man will step from behind the world stage with answers to what had just happened. The world will be in utter chaos and He will settle the world by explaining that we had been taken away by intelligent beings from another galaxy. He may say that we will be returned when our “training” is complete. This will bring order and purpose back to the people who had lost loved ones. He will mention that we who were taken were all believers in a book of “fairy tales” and needed to be schooled in modern “spiritual evolution”.

    Do NOT believe anything he says. He is the antichrist and he will lead the world to death. The following seven years, according to Bible prophecy will be horrific beyond anything ever seen by the eyes of mankind. BILLIONS will perish as God releases His WRATH on this world for its wicked ways and for rejecting His ONLY provision for our salvation from sin and death. (see Isaiah 24 and Revelation 8-10 for a preview)

    Whoever you are, if you have read this far, you know what to do. Get a Bible at the Dollar Tree and read beginning in Romans and Ephesians. Before you begin, set your heart to learning and to discovering the TRUTH. Go to a quiet place and if you are truly seeking to know God, get on your knees. Speak into the air saying, “God, or whoever you are, I want to know if you exist. I want to know the truth because this world lies and hides it. I desire to know why I’m here but mostly I want to know WHO put me here. I know that for every effect there must be a CAUSE. Who are you, Lord?”

    If you want to know God, seek Him with your whole heart. He will save you if you are sincerely seeking to know Him. Ask Him to assist you while you read and to show you the TRUTH. If you do this or something similar, (not necessarily the exact words, use your own) He will show you Himself, remove your sins, join with your own spirit and fill you with His Spirit, putting a NEW spirit within you and you will be saved. Seek truth in the Bible; ask to be shown the truth of God; finally, BELIEVE the truth. You have just inherited eternity. He will remove you from this wicked world very soon and you will be with Him and all the saved people forever and ever.

  4. Check headlines of the recent past. Raw sewage dumped directly into the ocean from Mexico is likely causing the problem. Tijuana treatment plant is too small and the overflow has been going into the Tijuana river.
    So no, it isn’t global warming, but good try.

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