Thousands of emaciated sea lion pups are strewn across California’s beaches in a heartbreaking scene that the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has dubbed an “unusual mortality event.”
But it’s not just California — marine animal rehabilitation centers along the west-coast are bursting at the seems with newly arriving ravenous sea lion pups. What’s going on in the Pacific?
The Pacific Ocean is warming, in part from a slow-moving, stubborn El Nino, which is precluding rich, cold water from upwelling and carrying nutrients to feed phytoplankton that attracts schools of anchovies, herring, mackerel, dogfish, rockfish, whitefish and squid — food for sea lion pups.
There’s an even bigger problem beginning to drive these “unusual mortality events.” The unintended consequences of releasing an excess of 96 million metric tons of greenhouse gases daily are disrupting ocean currents globally. Most of the heat from burning fossil fuels has been stored deep in the oceans, but now it’s surfacing with vengeance in the Pacific, Atlantic and elsewhere.
The West Coast is renowned for its magnificent kelp forests. Sentient sea lions help keep these tremendous underwater jungles healthy.
Overfishing has decimated all West Coast fisheries. Clearly, it’s time for NOAA to drastically cut all West Coast fishery quotas, protect sea lions and their opulent habitat — the kelp forests.
Earth Dr Reese Halter’s latest book is Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save our Oceans.