According to recent statements made by the federal scientists, the hundreds of sea lion pups stranded along the coast of California are a direct consequence of the devastating effects climate change has on the environment.
According to experts, the sea lions strandings are caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean, which has a serious impact on the sea lions’ main food source, the fish population.
Justin Viezbicke, from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is in charge of the West Coast strandings. He said that, so far, more than 940 sea lion pups have been rescued and treated by specialized marine mammal centers in California.
According to Viezbicke, this year, the number of stranded sea lions has increased considerately, and scientists believe that it’s all because the lack of fish is driving the sea lion pups to leave Southern California and look for food by themselves.
They start doing it because their mothers have not returned from their hunting trips and the pups are left all alone to care for themselves and are too young and inexperienced to succeed.
Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, explains that the sea lion pups leave their rookeries without being prepared to do so. He adds that there hasn’t been such a large number of strandings in more than 40 years, which is very alarming.
The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito has treated more than 220 sea lion pups so far.
The satellite data suggest that the sea lion mothers are gone looking for food and will spend a long period of time doing it.
Nate Mantua, a climatologist for NOAA, explained that fish populations seem to be affected by a layer of ocean water that is warmer than usual by 2-5 degrees this time of year.
According to the researchers this was caused by a weather pattern that involves strong southern winds and weak northern one. These currents are responsible for warming the ocean, making the fish swim to colder waters.
Most of the stranded sea lions have been rescued in Southern California, but experts feat that the number of strandings will increase.
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