L.A. Times: “Ongoing fish famine” along US West Coast —
“Dearth of food across ocean” —
Severe fishery implosion —
Supply has been low since 2011 —
Gov’t Expert: “Looks very grim… It is hard to watch”
Published: February 29th, 2016 at 9:58 am ET
L.A. Times, Feb 25, 2016 Fewer sea lions have been stranded this year, but that’s a bad sign, scientists say… it’s a sign that the sea lion population is dwindling rather than recovering.
An ongoing fish famine is preventing mothers from producing enough milk, resulting in smaller and less hardy pups. As of Monday, there had been 375 sea lion strandings so far in 2016… about 160 sea lions are found stranded during the first two months of a typical year… [L]ess available prey are hurting newly born sea lions the most, potentially slowing down the species’ population growth, scientists say.
“It’s going to decline,” said Sharon Melin, wildlife biologist at the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center… During NOAA’s survey of the sea lion breeding grounds, Melin said, researchers saw more dead pups than usual. The increased mortality could cause fewer pups to become stranded because they’re dying before they can leave the islands, she said.
The exact number of dead pups is not known… The pups… should have gained about 20 pounds in the last six months, Melin said, but they haven’t grown at all. “It still looks very grim this year,” Melin said…
S.D. Union Tribune, Feb. 24, 2016: Record sea lion strandings are tapering off; Scientists say the trend may indicate dwindling population, not a recovery… SeaWorld San Diego typically rescues 200 marine mammals in any given year. Already this year, there are 147 sea lions in SeaWorld’s care, according to David Koontz, theme park spokesman…
The low birth weight suggests that there isn’t adequate prey… “It’s a clear sign that there is a mismatch between supply and demand,” said Nate Manuta, a NOAA climate scientist… The dearth of food across the ocean isn’t harming the adult sea lions as much as the pups… Melin said more pups are leaving their mothers before they are ready, likely because of hunger… Because food supplies have been low for five years, the habits of the species have to adjust. “We are seeing adaptation,” Melin said, “even though it is hard to watch.”
Seattle Times, Feb 27, 2016: Sardines off the West Coast have continued on a steep decline, with populations this summer forecast to be down 93 percent from a 2007 peak, according to a draft assessment from the National Marine Fisheries Service…
Last year, the sardine implosion was so severe that the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to call off the season that was scheduled to start in July for West Coast fleets… The stocks of sardines aged one year or older are forecast to be 64,422 metric tons, about a third lower than the 2015 assessment…
Albert Carter, of Ocean Gold Seafood… who serves on a Pacific Fishery Management Council advisory committee, said… if populations have continued to decline, he does not expect a 2016 season.