According to NOAA, almost 1,000 marine animals perished or became sick in June.
Experts say algal blooms are seasonal, but climate change may worsen them.
Rescuers receive around 200 marine mammal crisis notifications daily.
“I’ve heard of several people walking the beaches who have seen [sick] animal after [sick animal,” said USC biological sciences professor David Caron.
“Animal rescue groups are scrambling to protect animals.”
The rapid proliferation of algae that creates domoic acid is sickening seabirds, dolphins, and sea lions.
Experts suspect poisonous algae is killing hundreds of California sea lions and dolphins.
— CTV News (@CTVNews) June 22, 2023
Dr. Caron warned harmful algal blooms to disturb food webs. Shellfish, anchovies, and sardines eat the toxins before marine mammals do.
“They eat a meal of those highly toxic fish and then become toxified themselves, and if they get enough of that material, it can kill them, which is happening now,” he said.
The Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute, which rescues and treats animals, receives over 200 marine mammal distress calls daily.
“We are doing the best we can to keep up with the intense pace,” institute co-founder Ruth Dover said.
Domoic acid can cause marine creatures to convulse and drown.
New survey estimate shows that the population of endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales may be stable and increasing slightly. #Beluga #Whales #SpeciesintheSpotlight #Alaskahttps://t.co/mtssyAIuOb pic.twitter.com/ytj3CFDjaM
— NOAA Fisheries AK (@NOAAFisheriesAK) June 15, 2023
Blooms can harm humans. Dr. Caron said the California Department of Public Health monitors toxins in fish and closes shellfish beaches when required, but eating them can make people sick.
If they discover sea lions or dolphins stranded, people may try to approach them, but the chemicals may make them hostile.
Dr. Caron advised people to avoid marine animals and call rescue organizations, who had saved several by collecting, feeding, and giving them liquids to flush the toxins out.
California’s algae blooms between March and June, but this year’s long and rainy winter may delay blooming.
Climate change may spread hazardous algal species.
Warmer water makes more regions suitable for harmful algae blooms.
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Dr. Caron said scientists are currently studying how climate change affects coastal organisms.
“But we have a fair amount of evidence, especially in inland waters, that climate change is exacerbating some of the problems we’re seeing with harmful algae,” he said.