Unprecedented number of seals washing up on California beaches

Unprecedented number of seals washing up on California beaches

An unprecedented number of Guadalupe fur seals are washing up sick and dead along the coast on California, prompting the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to declare an "unusual mortality event" for the marine animals.

Since the start of 2015, at least 80 Guadalupe fur seals have washed up along the state coast. More than half of them (42 seals) were already dead when they hit the coast, while the remaining seals were half-starved and emaciated.

Many of those seals were pups the year before. Justin Viezbicke from the NOAA said young fur seals were coming to shores half-starved.

Some researchers are of the view that the marine creatures are being victimized by fast changing climate conditions, which are affecting the waters these marine creatures call home.

Toby Garfield, director of environmental research at NOAA's La Jolla-based Southwest Fisheries Science Center, said, "We think that warm water conditions have really changed the range of quite a few of the forage fish species that the fur seals would be going after … they are more interested in water conditions."

The fur seals in question are found almost exclusively on Guadalupe Island close to Baja, California. That's why they are Guadalupe fur seals. According to a fresh estimate, nearly 15,000 seals of this species live in the area.

"They're young animals, and they're coming in starving to death," Viezbicke said Thursday.

"We think that warm water conditions have really changed the range of quite a few of the forage fish species that the fur seals would be going after," said Toby Garfield, director of environmental research with NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

"A lot of them, they don't know geographic boundaries; they are more interested in water conditions," Garfield said of the fish.

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