[LARGER IMAGE <HERE>]
IT DOESN'T TAKE HUGE AMOUNTS OF RADIATION TO KILL FISH AND OTHER MARINE LIFE, OR TO MAKE THEM STERILE.
THE PROBLEM FOR MARINE ANIMALS IS THAT THEY ARE SURROUNDED BY WATER 24 HOURS A DAY, EVERY DAY, NO ESCAPE, AND THEN THERE'S THE BIO-ACCUMULATION EVERY FEEDING, EVERY DAY, BECAUSE, IN AN OCEAN WITH RADIOACTIVE PARTICLES, EVEN IF THERE IS FOOD AVAILABLE, THAT FOOD IS ALSO IRRADIATED.
Radioactivity in the Ocean: Diluted, But Far from Harmless - Yale E360
ABOVE: A humpback whale carcass at the mouth of the Delaware Bay reported on July 5, 2016. Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute, Lewes, Delaware.
There were 26 coastal Atlantic humpback whale deaths in 2016, and 18 deaths through June 1, 2017, six of which were off the North Carolina coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The number of deaths so far in 2017 matches the total for 2014 and 2015 combined.
Boat strikes cannot explain all of the humpback deaths, and scientists are trying to figure out what caused the other half of them.
“There is still a question of whether there is disease or pathogen off shore,” McLellan said. “There’s still something going on inside these animals.”
ABOVE: About three out of four humpback whales in the waters around Hawaii have unexplained bumps on their flanks. They also exhibit severe weight loss.
Winter usually brings more than 10,000 whales to the waters of Hawaii from all over the
Christine Gabriele, a marine biologist with the Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium,
is there to focus on the slew of worrisome bumps on the whales' flanks.
The bumps are separate from the usual ones bulging from the head of a humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae). Those iconic oversize hair follicles are thought to be part of the sensory system.
These smaller body bumps look more like bad acne or an allergic reaction. Noted on rare occasions in the 1970s, the condition called nodular dermatitis has become much more prevalent. These days, Gabriele and colleagues see these skin lesions on over 75 percent of Hawaii’s humpback visitors.
The bumps coincide with other suggestions of declining health in the whales.
In the nearly three decades that Gabriele has been studying whales, she would not describe the animals as skinny. Now, often “you can see their shoulder blades,” she says. “They look angular rather than round.”
Collaborators from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., are analyzing the skin for trace elements.
National Marine Fisheries Service lab staff are studying the blubber for organic pollutants like PCBs and flame retardants. Preliminary results suggest that bumpy whales differ from non-bumpy in levels of manganese and a few other trace elements. Gabriele eagerly awaits the full analyses to make sense of what she’s seeing among the migratory creatures.
Humpback whales dying in growing numbers off the East Coast
Bacteria on Whale Skin Tell a Tale of Health and Sickness
Strikingly, skin examined from 56 individual whales from populations in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and South Pacific oceans all harbored, and were generally dominated by, the same two groups of bacteria. Regardless of population, age or sex, all animals had bacteria on their skins belonging to the Flavobacteria (Tenacibaculum) and the Gammaproteobacteria (Psychrobacter).
These groups are marine bacteria previously found in association with marine animals, and but the types on the humpback whales’ skin hadn't been seen together before. The discovery of this core bacterial community on the skin of healthy humpbacks allowed us to follow up on the other important question from our first results: if and how the bacteria residing on a whale's skin may reflect its overall health.
Though we still need to learn more, the implications of this research are exciting and suggest that monitoring the skin-associated bacteria may provide a useful way to monitor the health of threatened and endangered marine mammals.
[You can read this paper at PLOS ONE.]
Humpback Whales Are Starving
New research shows that more of the marine mammals are dying as KRILL, their main food source in the Antarctic, dwindles.
A dead humpback whale washed up onto the beaches of Washington state. Although the cause of its death remains a mystery, initial observations found that the whale was overly thin, with little blubber and little of its associated oil, which humpbacks use for fuel and warmth.
It was not an isolated occurrence. In Western Australia, the number of humpback whale stranding events has been on the rise for the past several years. The region used to see just two or three dead whales a year; that has now increased to dozens per season. As with the humpback in Washington, tests down under have revealed that most of the dead whales in Australia also had low blubber levels.
Experts described the animals as “extremely malnourished.”
The conclusion: Many whales, especially mothers who recently calved and need to feed their young, could start running out of energy during their long migration and die from exhaustion.
NO, FROM STARVATION...
Strange, unprecedented behavior seen for the first time in orcas.
In what has been described as a first-ever account of such an event taking place, scientists were able to observe an adult male orca and his mother killing a newborn calf.
Although the incident took place in December 2016, it was only last week when a trio of researchers published their account of what happened in the journal Scientific Reports. According to the researchers, the attack marks the first time infanticide has been observed in killer whales, and, as Live Science noted, the only known case of a male orca and his mother jointly committing the act.
In a detailed explanation of how the adult male orca ultimately killed the newborn calf, Live Science wrote that Towers and his fellow scientists saw three killer whales aged 2- to 13-years-old being chased by a 32-year-old male orca and his 46-year-old mother. The three younger whales were able to swim toward their other family members, which included their other siblings and their 28-year-old mother. This group of siblings included the aforementioned newborn, or neonate.
While the baby whale and its family tried their best to head to safety by swimming westward, the researchers wrote in the new paper that their two predators eventually caught up with the large group, with the newborn calf hanging out of the 32-year-old male’s mouth, as Towers had described to the Washington Post.
In the five hours that followed, the researchers observed the adult male orca killing the calf by drowning it, with the baby’s mother unable to do anything to stop the attack. The male attacker’s mother reportedly helped out in the killing, throwing herself in front of the baby’s mother and further preventing her from saving her newborn.
Right whale females apparently produced no calves during their winter migration this year.
Specialists fear the species is about to go extinct.
No new calves of the imperiled right whales were born this year, according to surveyors — furthering fears that the species is on what one expert called the "knife edge" of extinction.
The absence of newborns is something that hasn't been seen in 30 years of observing the whales' migration.
The National Marine Fisheries Service made the announcement as survey flights shut down at the close of the winter calving season.
The news comes with the whale population in an extremely vulnerable position, said Michael Jasny, the marine animal protection director of the National Resources Defense Council. He characterized it as a knife edge.
Right whales are the rarest of the large whales, with fewer than 500 (the new count is actually only 300-350 individuals) known to be alive, including only about 100 mature females.
They are massive 40-ton creatures. Their two-plume breathing spray and the lack of a dorsal fin distinguish them from other whales.
They migrate south to calve each winter, so close to the East Coast that a mother and calf pair was spotted in 2005 in the breakers off Pawleys Island near Georgetown. The proximity to boating, fishing and shipping has become deadly.
Last year, 17 washed up dead in the U.S. and Canada.
North Atlantic populations have been decimated by historical over-exploitation by the whaling industry. The species gets its names from early whalers, who considered them to be the "right" whales to hunt. Their slower pace, the fact that they come close to land, their tendency to float after being killed and their "productivity" in terms of oil made them lucrative animals to target.
Today, the species is threatened by ship collisions, entanglement in fishing nets, and separation from calving areas because of shipping traffic.
Since this right whale is found in coastal habitats, it is more likely to suffer from impacts of human activity than more open-water cetaceans. With such a small, slow-growing population, any threatening factor may have a significant impact.
Sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific Ocean
Populations of seals, sea lions, and sea otters have sequentially collapsed over large areas of the northern North Pacific Ocean and southern Bering Sea during the last several decades.
A bottom-up nutritional limitation mechanism induced by physical oceanographic change or competition with fisheries was long thought to be largely responsible for these declines.
The current weight of evidence is more consistent with top-down forcing. Increased predation by killer whales probably drove the sea otter collapse and may have been responsible for the earlier pinniped declines as well.
We propose that decimation of the great whales by post-World War II industrial whaling caused the great whales' foremost natural predators, killer whales, to begin feeding more intensively on the smaller marine mammals, thus “fishing-down” this element of the marine food web.
The timing of these events, information on the abundance, diet, and foraging behavior of both predators and prey, and feasibility analyses based on demographic and energetic modeling are all consistent with this hypothesis.
King salmon stocks have been in decline for about the last 10 years and fish have been noticeably getting smaller.
Daniel Schindler, professor at the University of Washington, studies fisheries at the university’s School of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. He and his colleges analyzed data from fish tagging projects, catch and fishery management data from states and the Canadian government. They found that overall, older king salmon are getting smaller.
“It was only the oldest age classes, particularly the five-year-old marine age and four-year-old marine age fish that seemed to be achieving a smaller size when they return,” Schindler added. The trend was most pronounced in Cook Inlet and Western Alaska where the size of kings have declined about 10-percent.
There is no singular, concrete answer as to why king salmon are shrinking, but Schindler says that resident killer whales are much more size selective for the largest fish than commercial fisheries ever were.
Despite whether killer whales are the cause of the decline in older kings, their dwindling numbers may pose a problem for fishery managers.
IF ORCA ARE EATING ALL THE BIG KING SALMON, WHY ARE SO MANY ORCAS STARVING?
Starving Killer Whales Are Losing Most of Their Babies
A nearly 70 percent miscarriage rate is threatening the future of the southern resident killer whale.
On top of habitat degradation, climate change, and other challenges, the whales have another problem: they’re not having enough babies.
In a recently published paper, University of Washington biologist Samuel Wasser and his colleagues report that from 2008 to 2014, nearly 70 percent of southern resident killer whale pregnancies failed, either in miscarriage or with the calves dying immediately postpartum.
Over the years, killer whales accumulate toxins from their food in their fat.
Normally, these pesticides and chemicals, such as PCBs or DDT, have chronic effects on the whales. But in recent years something else has happened: chinook salmon—one of the whales’ most important food sources—have dwindled.
When the whales don’t get enough to eat, they start to burn their fat reserves, which releases the stored toxins into their bloodstreams. This hurts the health of the developing calf, and the effect is particularly pronounced late in the pregnancy when the fetus is growing rapidly.
“The cumulative effects of loss of food and release of toxins are the best predicators of whether or not a pregnant female will take a fetus to term or abort it,” Wasser says.
For the southern resident killer whales (SRKW), the future is bleak.
This past summer, Wasser was forced to halt his team’s study because the whales were nowhere to be found. Despite searching for two months, they only saw the whales for five days.
“It’s terrible,” Wasser says. Late summer, when his team was on the water, should have been peak killer whale season. “There are no southern resident killer whales here at all, and that has never happened before. Never. We’re about to lose them.”
The SRKWs, a sub-population of killer whales that specialize in eating fish, strongly favor Chinook salmon over coho and steel-head. They will eat coho, though they much prefer the big, fatty Chinooks.
Representative Brian Blake, the Democratic lawmaker who put forward the bill, hopes that if the hatcheries release 10 million Chinook smolts, maybe 100,000 to 200,000 will survive, returning to the coast as adults in time to be eaten by the remaining SRKWs. So far, Blake’s bill has strong bipartisan support.
“I kept hearing stories about J pod and the lack of salmon, and that salmon is one of the factors in turning that around,” says Blake, who represents the Grays Harbor area, which is a regular fish-hunting area for the killer whales.
“Scientists say if something is not done immediately, these whales are gone,” says Democratic State Senator Kevin Ranker, who has put forward other killer whale-related bills that are also under consideration.
Donna Sandstrom, executive director of the nonprofit organization the Whale Trail, says the whales’ situation seems dire. “We’re perhaps witnessing their last chapter on Earth,” she says. “The number of salmon does not necessarily translate to availability to orcas,” Sandstrom says.
The Historical Collapse of Southern California Fisheries
Recently, the New York Times Green Blog described how two major Southern California fisheries (kelp bass and barred sand bass) had collapsed "right under the noses of management agencies." The management and oversight of these fish stocks had not changed since 1959. This news is perhaps not surprising as there are more examples of marine species collapses off our coastline than possible to list in this blog post.
These waters are home to one of the largest kelp forests in the Pacific, and this giant kelp (Macrocystis Pyrifera) is the main food source for abalone, sea urchins, and many other fish and marine mammals. Because of a spike in population growth after World War II, a greater amount of sewage was discharged into the water, leading to the deterioration of kelp forests. This pollution, combined with a warmer water temperature because of the 1957 El Niño event, rendered the kelp forests practically extinct, which meant to loss of abalones’ main food source.
The future of seafood and entire marine ecosystems is not at all certain, and based on past mistakes.
Stricter regulations and more consistent, updated research are the keys to ensuring that these species that we rely on for food, science, and natural beauty never go extinct.
DISAPPEARANCE OF PACIFIC SARDINES, A MAJOR MARINE FOOD SOURCE
Pacific Sardines: Critical Food Source in Steep Decline
A Little Fish with Big Impact In Trouble on U.S. West Coast - Yale E360
OTHER SPECIES DWINDLING
Tuna and mackerel populations suffer catastrophic 74% decline ...
We're Running Out of Fish Faster Than We Thought - Pacific Standard
Anchovy decline spells big trouble for Pacific seabirds | Audubon
"Pew Charitable Trusts highlight on their blog a potential decline in the population of anchovy that could mean real problems for the many Pacific seabirds that rely on them to live."
Why are New England's wild blue mussels disappearing?
Ocean Acidification May Contribute To Global Shellfish Decline ...
Mystery of shellfish decline - NZ Herald
Two studies underscore the complexity of predicting the rise and fall of global fish populations. George Sugihara, another biologist at Scripps, thinks that all simulations fisheries scientists use to predict populations and set quotas are "fundamentally flawed."
These models don't reflect the "dynamic complexity" of the ocean, and can't account for how a population's growth rate might vary in response to, for example, overfishing of another species or introductions of invasive species. His point is reinforced by a recent study, published in December 2013 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlighting the "snowball effect" of overfishing and confirming what many have always known about the interconnectedness of different species.
An epidemic of sick sea lion pups in Southern California is already being blamed on the decline of sardines. The last time Pacific sardines declined this steeply was around 1950.
HOWEVER, THOSE SEA LION PUPS TESTED POSITIVE FOR LEUKEMIA.
SEA BIRDS ALSO STARVING
A Mystery of Seabirds, Blown Off Course and Starving - New York Times
Jul 14, 2017 - All are the same species of agile seabird called great shearwaters, and all washed up emaciated on Long Island beaches last month in a mass mortality event that scientists say is extraordinary for the region.
SAME IN THE PACIFIC
Hundreds of dead and starving seabirds wash up on Tasman beaches ...Jan 31, 2018, New Zealand - "There have been reports of people finding hundreds of dead, dehydrated and starving fairy prions, an abundant petrel species, across the entire Tasman Bay, and all the way to Wharariki in Golden Bay.
There are many that have passed away. Some are dehydrated from lack of food, and some that are fit enough to make a full recovery."
Dead and starving penguins have also been reported on Auckland's Waiheke Island and North Shore, the Coromandel Peninsula and Kaikōura.
Number of Starving Sea Lions in California 'Unprecedented'--National Geographic
10,000 Dead Sea Lions Wash Up In California
“The Ocean is Dying”: Marine and Animal Life Die Offs, California
July 30, 2017 - A startling new report says in no uncertain terms that the Pacific Ocean off the California coast is turning into a desert. Once full of life, it is now becoming barren, and marine mammals, seabirds and fish are starving as a result. According to Ocean Health: The waters of the Pacific off the coast of California are a clear, shimmering blue today, so transparent it’s possible to see the sandy bottom below […] clear water is a sign that the ocean is turning into a desert, and the chain reaction that causes that bitter clarity is perhaps most obvious on the beaches of the Golden State, where thousands of emaciated sea lion pups are stranded.
"This has never happened before… It’s incredible. It’s so unusual, and there’s no really good explanation for it. There’s also a good chance that the problem will continue," said a NOAA research scientist in climatology, Nate Mantua.
Experts blame a lack of food due to unusually warm ocean waters. NOAA declared an El Nino, the weather pattern that warms the Pacific, a few weeks ago. The water is three and a half to six degrees warmer than the average
The same is true of seabirds on the Washington State coast:
Littering a Washington State shoreline, Bonnie Wood saw something grisly: the mangled bodies of dozens of scraggly young seabirds. Walking half a mile along the beach at Twin Harbors State Park on Wednesday, Wood spotted more than 130 carcasses of juvenile Cassin’s auklets—the blue-footed, palm-size victims of what is becoming one of the largest mass die-offs of seabirds ever recorded.
“It was so distressing,” recalled Wood, a volunteer who patrols Pacific Northwest beaches looking for dead or stranded birds. “They were just everywhere. Every ten yards we’d find another ten bodies of these sweet little things.”
“This is just massive, massive, unprecedented,” said Julia Parrish, a University of Washington seabird ecologist who oversees the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), a program that has tracked West Coast seabird deaths for almost 20 years. “We may be talking about 50,000 to 100,000 deaths. So far.” (source)
Last year, scientists sounded the alarm over the death of millions of star fish, blamed on warmer waters and ‘a mystery virus’:
Starfish are dying by the millions up and down the West Coast, leading scientists to warn of the possibility of localized extinction of some species. As the disease spreads, researchers may be zeroing in on a link between warming waters and the rising starfish body count. (source: PBS)
Researchers found that such events, which can kill more than 90 per cent of a population, are increasing among birds, fish and marine invertebrates.
In the last few days it was reported that a massive die off of bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico was connected by researchers to BP’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill. Evidence was found in a third of the cases of lesions in the adrenal gland, an otherwise rare condition linked with petroleum exposure. More than a fifth of the dolphins also suffered bacterial pneumonia, causing deadly lung infection that is likewise rarely seen in dolphin populations.
SO, FROM KRILL AND KELP TO SEA BIRDS AND THE GREAT WHALES, MARINE LIFE ACROSS THE GLOBE IS STARVING.
MARINE LIFE SPECIES ARE ALSO NOT REPRODUCING AS THEY ONCE DID.
SINCE EACH SPECIES AND EACH LOCATION ARE DIFFERENT, ISN'T IT TIME "SCIENTISTS" DECIDED THERE MIGHT BE A COMMON FACTOR, SOMETHING THAT IS AFFECTING SEA LIFE EVERYWHERE, SOMETHING THAT CAUSES WASTING, LESSENS REPRODUCTION CAPABILITY, CAUSES SKIN ANOMALIES AND INTERNAL ORGAN FAILURE, CAUSES DISORIENTATION?
WHAT COULD IT BE?
SURELY NOT RADIATION, RIGHT?
The effects of radiation exposure on an individual are cumulative.
There is currently no treatment to repair cells that have already been damaged by radiation.
When one is exposed to around 100 rems, the blood's lymphocyte cell count will be reduced, leaving the victim more susceptible to infection. This is often referred to as mild radiation sickness.
Early symptoms of radiation sickness mimic those of flu and may go unnoticed unless a blood count is done.According to data from Hiroshima and Nagaski, symptoms may persist for up to 10 years and may also cause an increased long-term risk for leukemia and lymphoma.
Because reproductive tract cells divide rapidly, these areas of the body can be damaged at rem levels as low as 200. Long-term, some radiation sickness victims will become STERILE.
Like its effects on the heart, radiation kills nerve cells and small blood vessels, and can cause seizures and immediate death.
Disorientation, poor balance, dizziness?
Radiation damage to the intestinal tract lining will cause nausea, bloody vomiting and diarrhea. This is occurs when the victim's exposure is 200 rems or more. The radiation will begin to destroy the cells in the body that divide rapidly. These include blood, GI tract, reproductive and hair cells, and harms the DNA and RNA of surviving cells.
Hair loss, skin lesions, ulceration of the mouth and mucus membranes, anorexia, headache, malaise and rapid heartbeat (tachycardia). With mild acute radiation sickness (ARS), the discomfort subsides within a few hours or days.
However, there are three different types of severe ARS, which can develop as a result of high doses (e.g., an atomic explosion) to small doses (e.g., repeated x-rays over a period of days or weeks):
1. Cardiovascular/central nervous system sickness is the type of ARS produced by extremely high total body doses of radiation (greater than 3000 rads). This type is the most severe and is always fatal. In addition to nausea and vomiting in the prodromal stage, patients with cerebral syndrome will also experience anxiety, confusion, and loss of consciousness within a few hours, the latent period will occur. 5 or 6 hours after the initial radiation exposure, tremors, and convulsions will begin, and eventually coma and death are inevitable within 3 days.
2. Gastrointestinal sickness is the type of ARS that can occur when the total dose of radiation is lower but still high (400 or more rads). It is characterized by intractable nausea, vomiting, imbalance of electrolytes, and diarrhea that lead to severe dehydration, diminished plasma volume, vascular collapse, infection and life-threatening complications.
3. Hematopoietic sickness (bone marrow sickness)is the type of ARS occurs at exposure of between 200 to 1000 rads. Initially it is characterized by lack of appetite (anorexia), fever, malaise, nausea and vomiting, which may be maximal within 6 to 12 hours after exposure. Symptoms then subside within 24 to 36 hours after exposure.
During the latent period for this type, the lymph nodes, spleen and bone marrow begin to atrophy, leading to underproduction of all types of blood cells (pancytopenia). In the peripheral blood, lack of lymph cells (lymphopenia) commences immediately, reaching a peak within 24 to 36 hours. Lack of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, develops more slowly. Lack of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) may become prominent within 3 or 4 weeks.
Increased susceptibility to infection develops due to a decrease in granulocytes and lymphocytes, impairment of antibody production and granulocyte migration, decreased ability to attack and kill bacteria, diminished resistance to diffusion in subcutaneous tissues, and bleeding (hemorrhagic) areas of the skin and bowel that encourage entrance and growth of bacteria. Hemorrhage occurs mainly due to the lack of blood platelets.
The area of the body exposed to radiation is also an important factor. The entire human body can probably absorb up to 200 rads acutely without fatality. However, as the whole-body dose approaches 450 rads the death rate will approximate 50%, and a total whole-body dose of greater than 600 rads received in a very short time will almost certainly be fatal.
By contrast, many thousands of rads delivered over a long period of time (e.g. for cancer treatment), can be tolerated by the body when small volumes of tissue are irradiated.
Distribution of the dose within the body is also important. For example, protection of bowel or bone marrow by appropriate shielding will permit survival of the exposed individual from what would be an otherwise fatal whole-body dose.
[MY NOTE: Expert teams have taken hundreds of radiation measurements on many occasions in towns just outside the 20 km exclusion zone around the Fukushima disaster site and in Fukushima City and Koriyama, 60 km from the disaster. Greenpeace monitoring began shortly after the accident on 11 March 2011. The teams have also tested soil, vegetables, seafood, and sediment. Their data can be found <HERE>.]
WHAT ABOUT ORGANISMS THAT SWIM 24 HOURS A DAY, 365 DAYS A YEAR IN RADIOACTIVE WATER?
IT'S ABSORBED BY THEIR SKIN, INGESTED AS THEY FEED AND MOVE THROUGH WATER.
THERE IS NO ESCAPE... EVER...EXCEPT IN DEATH.