According to a recent report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Guadalupe fur seals living off the Southern California and Mexico coasts experience an ‘unusual’ mortality rate.
Moreover, dozens of the seals were found stranded on the shoreline, and all showed signs of emaciation. NOAAA researchers believe that the stranding may cause the largest part of deaths of fur seals.
In 2015, researchers detected 80 stranded animals along Central California’s shoreline. Biologists said that they usually found only a dozen stranded fur seals per year during the same period in the past years.
In the last two decades, on average only 10 to 12 fur seals were reported as stranded every year. But of the 80 seals found stranded this year more than a half were found dead.
Tenaya Norris, an investigator with The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, told reporters Tuesday that most of the stranded animals are baby seals that were born last year. Norris’ center along with SeaWorld is one of the two groups that try to help stranded Guadalupe fur seals and rehabilitate them.
All stranded animals were emaciated, researchers reported. NOAA scientists think that the unusual high rate of stranding events is linked to rising sea temperatures in the eastern Pacific. Temperatures have been rising in the region for nearly two years now.
NOAA team believes that rising water temperatures were caused by a warm ‘blob’ in the Pacific and a change in the atmospheric pressure in the gulf of Alaska, which altered the weather in the region.
Additionally, some species of fish that fur seals feed on may have moved to cooler waters leaving the furry animals starve to death. Other species however may have come into seals’ range from even warmer regions in the south. But the changes in their dietary options may have pushed many of fur seals to the shoreline where many of them faced certain death, especially if they were pups.
NOAA reported that unusual warm water temperatures may also be responsible for the die-offs in some whale populations including humpbacks and fin whales. Unusually many dead large animals were found last month in the region.
Furthermore, the Guadalupe fur seal is already listed as ‘threatened’ in official documents since the animals were hunted down recklessly about one century ago. Today, there are 15,000 fur seals off the Guadalupe Island and Southern California. Plus, they are especially vulnerable because they live and breed only in these areas.
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