🚨 Toxic Algal Bloom Devastates Dolphin and Sea Lion Population in Southern California 😒

An alarming surge in harmful algae off the Southern California Coast has resulted in the tragic deaths of hundreds of California sea lions and nearly 60 dolphins in early June. Marine mammal experts are working tirelessly to respond to distress calls, but the intensity of the situation is unparalleled. The culprit behind these heartbreaking casualties is believed to be a neurotoxin called domoic acid, produced by the rapid growth of the algae Pseudo-nitzschia. 🌊🐬🦁

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In a heartbreaking turn of events, Southern California’s picturesque coastline has become a scene of devastation for its marine inhabitants. The Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute, part of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, has been flooded with distress calls, with more than 1,000 reports of sick and deceased marine mammals pouring in from June 8 to June 14. Ruth Dover, the institute’s co-founder and Managing Director, expressed the overwhelming challenge they face in managing over 200 daily reports of distressed marine mammals. πŸ˜₯

The surge in harmful algae growth, particularly the species Pseudo-nitzschia, has led to the production of domoic acidβ€”a neurotoxin responsible for the tragic chain of events. As this toxin permeates the marine food web, seabirds, sea lions, and dolphins unknowingly ingest it when consuming affected prey. Given the neurological symptoms observed in the affected animals, stranding responders strongly suspect that domoic acid is the primary cause of their deaths. To confirm this, tissue samples have been collected for thorough testing. 🌊🚫🐦🐬

Forecasts by NOAA CoastWatch and the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System reveal alarming concentrations of domoic acid along the coast, particularly from Orange County to San Luis Obispo County. The toxin, if consumed, can lead to seizures, brain damage, and even death. However, it poses no direct threat to humans unless they consume contaminated food items. Thus, beachgoers are urged to stay away from stranded animals and prevent their pets from interacting with marine mammals, as they can carry the toxin and potentially transmit harmful diseases. πŸŒ΄πŸš«πŸ•

Michelle Berman Kowalewski, founder and Director of the Channel Islands Cetacean Research Unit, also part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, expressed her shock at the intensity of the situation. With two decades of experience in responding to strandings, Kowalewski highlighted that the current event is unlike anything she has witnessed before. Pregnant females among the deceased sea lions and dolphins add an even more tragic dimension to the crisis. The strain on responders is immense, and they depend on public cooperation to maintain a safe distance and allow the trained teams to carry out their vital work. πŸŒŠπŸ€”πŸ¦ˆ

Although seasonal outbreaks of domoic acid poisoning are not uncommon along the California coast, the spread of the toxin this year is showing a distinctive pattern. Unlike the previous episode, where the neurotoxin primarily affected sea lions and was closer to the shoreline, this year’s outbreak seems to be affecting offshore areas and has now taken a toll on dolphins as well. Researchers are keen to understand the reason behind this further distribution and are investigating factors such as illness that might contribute to the situation. The analysis of tissue samples collected from the affected animals will shed light on the toxin’s spread and potential underlying causes. βš“πŸ”¬πŸ 

As marine mammals continue to strand along the Southern California Coast, it is crucial for the public to report any sightings promptly. The West