Why do Climate Deniers Hate Sea Lion Pups?

March 31, 2015

Senator Cruz, put down that club!

Climate Central:

In recent weeks, emaciated young sea lions have been washing up on California beaches (though a few healthy ones have also shown up, including one who got to hang ten with a local surfer). Roughly 1,800 stranded pups have been found on California beaches through the first two-and-a-half months of 2015. That’s well above the 100 or so that usually turn up through the end of March and “at least as high as anything in the historical record,” according to Nate Mantua, a scientist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif.

In 2013 and 2014, large numbers of disheveled sea lion pups were also stranded on California’s beaches, though not at the same levels as this year.

One of the main causes has been the unusual and in some cases, record setting — warm water off the West Coast of the U.S. and stretching all the way to the Gulf of Alaska. The warm water is less rich in nutrients and the types of microscopic organisms and fish upon which sea lions usually feed. That has forced sea lion moms and pups alike to forage further for food, a tiring proposition for young sea lions.

While the sea lions have been the face of the recent intrusion of warm water, ecosystem disruptions are visible throughout the stretch of the eastern Pacific and Gulf of Alaska. Cold water copepods — small crustaceans at the base of the food chain — populations have dropped off sharply in the past year, while their warm water (less nutritious) brethren have shown up in huge quantities.

Further up the food chain, skipjack tuna have turned up in Alaska, thousands of miles beyond their usual range and Mantua said, “sportfish like marlin — things people travel to fish for in Baja — they’re catching them for day trips in southern California.”

Beyond the recent slew of strange sightings, Mantua warned that the impacts will linger over at least the next 2-3 years even if waters cool. He said juvenile salmon that have headed to sea are finding less hospitable waters, lowering their survival rates and reducing catches when they spawn back upriver.

West Coast commercial fisheries, including Alaska, brought in $2.7 billion in 2013, roughly half of the U.S. total that year. All these species shifts are likely to have ripple effects on local coastal communities that rely on them for livelihoods.

“Fisheries, they’ve already seen it,” Mantua said, though the exact economic impacts have yet to be quantified.

The warm water in the eastern Pacific over the past two years is a harbinger of things to come for the region. Ocean temperatures have been rising around the world and are expected to keep warming, and the eastern Pacific could see the odd conditions of the past two years become commonplace by mid-century. Just how far-reaching the impacts will be and which species will adapt and which will fail to is something scientists are still trying to untangle.

4 Responses to “Why do Climate Deniers Hate Sea Lion Pups?”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Ocean warming that causes the seal’s food sources to decline is part of it, but man has his fingers more directly in the pie by harvesting the species off the CA coast that the seals eat. We have basically decided that we need the sardines and anchovies more than the seals do, and since the seals can’t fight back, they just die. Tough luck! There has even been talk that radiation from Fukushima has played a part, contaminating and killing things all up the food chain, although they’re talking more AK than CA there.

  2. Richard Says:

    Why does “civilisation” hate Life?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “Civilization” doesn’t hate “life”. “Civilization” is a purely human invention, and the way it has evolved has led to mindless anthropocentric over-exploitation of the planet that threatens all “life”. There’s nothing “personal” about it—-it’s just “business”.

      • Richard Says:

        Metaphor. Cancer doesn’t “hate” its victim either but the results certainly seem “hateful“. And “business“, as in capitalist globalisation and industrialisation, is certainly ecocidal. And sometimes, in the cases of certain individuals, Koch brothers et al, it actually does seem to be quite personal.

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