Seals, Sea Lions Suffering From Toxic Algae Bloom and Domoic Acid
Experts say shelters for sick pinnipeds are overwhelmed with sick sea lions and seals, as Summer 2023 Begins
July 1, 2023
Algae blooms are at a record high this year, and they are causing a record high number of dead and dying aquatic mammals on California beaches. Experts are not sure why the bloom is thicker than it has been in fifty years; this years heavy rain and runoff of fertilizer is a good guess. But they are sure that 100's of marine mammals are beaching themselves.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center rescues, rehabilitates, and releases marine mammals once they are ready. Marine Mammal Care Center CEO John Warner said the toxic algae problem is twofold.
"In Los Angeles County, everyone knows it’s summertime, and many people are out on the beaches, which causes a real human safety issue," Warner said. "But it’s also very stressful on the animals, so the timing is not perfect at all. And we currently have so many animals showing up on the beaches that our hospital is full."
Dolphins don’t usually make it after washing up, but marine biologists can care for sea lions by giving them an IV if they can get them to a care center. If they make it in time, sea lions can recover after a few days.
Scientists say that this bloom is a significant event, and it’s overwhelming some organizations that rescue sick marine mammals. The Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro is building more pens because of the influx of sick sea lions.
Domoic acid is produced by the algae Pseudo-nitzchia and causes vomiting, unusual behaviors, seizures, loss of pregnancy, and death in the sea lions and other organisms. As peak beach season and the Fourth of July holiday approach, California officials and experts are warning about an unprecedented die-off of sea lions. The likely cause, domoic acid from an offshore algae bloom, is not unusual. But the level is atypical.