World Bulletin / News Desk
The strandings of a record number of sea lion pups along the California coast this year are linked to a puzzling weather pattern that has warmed their Pacific Ocean habitat and likely impacted fish populations they rely on for food, federal scientists said on Wednesday.
Some 940 stranded sea lions, mostly pups, have been treated by marine mammal centers in California so far this year, according to Justin Viezbicke, West Coast Stranding Coordinator for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
That is well above the 240 strandings typically seen through April, and scientists suspect the emaciated pups are prematurely leaving Southern California sea lion rookeries to seek food on their own after their mothers failed to return swiftly from hunting trips to nurse.
"These little pups, so desperate and so thin, are leaving the rookeries long before they're capable of hunting effectively," said Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, which has treated 220 stranded animals. "It's alarming because we haven't seen this number of stranded pups this early in 40 years."
The strandings are unusual because the pups, born last June, aren't supposed to be completely weaned until May.
Satellite data show sea lion mothers are foraging in traditional hunting grounds, but likely spending longer periods away, said Sharon Melin, a biologist with NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle.
Fish populations are likely being disrupted by a layer of ocean water, some 100 meters (330 feet) deep, that is 2 to 5 degrees warmer than usual this time of year along the Pacific Coast from Baja to Alaska's Aleutian Islands, said NOAA climatologist Nate Mantua.
The change was caused by a weather pattern involving weak northern and strong southern winds that are creating warmer-than-normal conditions.
It's unclear how many stranded animals will die among the 300,000-strong sea lion population. In 2013, some 70 percent of nursing pups perished in what NOAA declared an "unusual mortality event" linked to strandings.
Melin said pups checked on San Miquel Island this month were 44 percent below average weight at seven months old, marking the lowest growth rate since scientists began recording such measurements in the 1990s.
Most of the stranded pups have been recovered in Southern California, but the pups also swim or are carried further north, and may eventually turn up in Washington state and Oregon, according to Johnson.
"We're braced for more," Johnson said.
There were some 216 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2016, an increase of five million from the year before, according to the World Health Organization.
Cataract surgeries project to be expanded in scope to include fight against fistula
Turkey to create an automatic control system to keep records of African patients, Health Ministry official says
Ibb and al-Hodeidah provinces are the hardest-hit by the disease
Association of the Friends of Africa provides health and humanitarian services all over the African continent
Food and Agriculture Organization representative praises professionalism of Turkish government
People will move from vulnerable to more viable areas within their countries, report says
The conference opened hours after the United Nations issued its 2018 World Water Development Report warning that about 3.6 billion people, or half the world's population, already live in areas where water can be scarce at least one month a year.
While it is generally accepted that being overweight increases a person's disease risk, some researchers have recently suggested that carrying extra weight does not actually boost death rates for some, particularly the elderly.
29,000 ducks will be culled by Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority
After a top court last month ruled driving bans in some city zones for the most polluting diesel vehicles were legal, German commuters, politicians, environmentalists and the mighty car industry have been exchanging blows over potential blanket exclusions.
South Africa has experienced worst outbreak of Listeriosis in history with 180 deaths recorded
Cholera outbreak has killed at least 88 people since last October
New analysis finds almost half of American teenage girls were obese and more than 14 percent of boys aged 2 to 5
Tens of thousands of people have fled an upsurge of fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo this year, many of them arriving weak and unwell at Ugandan camps that are struggling to accommodate them.
CDC flu season update reveals season appears to have peaked in 13 states