Massive die-offs reported in Pacific Ocean — Officials: “No fish out there, anywhere, over a very large area”… “What’s happening? Where’s their food?” — “Alarming… Frightening… Total failure in reproduction… Like nothing we’ve ever observed before” (VIDEO)
Published: March 16th, 2017 at 2:35 pm ET
KTUU, Feb 14, 2017 (emphasis added): Following last year’s massive die-off of Alaskan seabirds, scientists still looking for answers… “Geographically and that it lasted a year, that’s unprecedented, [Kathy Kuletz, a biologist with US Fish & Wildlife Service]… “it’s certainly well over a hundred thousand and it could go many times that.”… “I would say possibly hundreds of thousands were killed… Almost always it’s been starvation… Sea birds are top predators,” [Heather Renner, biologist with Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge] said. “They’re sort of sentinels for our environment. They have definitely let us know that there’s change going on in the ocean ecosystem”… Renner says [the birds had an] exceptionally low birthing season… This reproductive die-off meant a “total failure” of murre reproduction that year… “The reproductive die off is something we’ve never seen in murres before, widespread. The refuge (AMNWR) has been monitoring these colonies for 4 decades and it’s like nothing we’ve ever observed before,” Renner said…
AP, Feb 10, 2017: [T]ens of thousands of common murres… starved and washed ashore on beaches from California to Alaska… “it’s because there’s no fish out there, anywhere, over a very large area,” [John Piatt, biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey] said. To see such effect over two sizeable marine ecosystems is extraordinary, he said… Common murres eat small forage fish [which] were largely absent when the National Marine Fisheries Service conducted surveys in summer 2015… A conservative extrapolation indicates 500,000 or more common murres died, Piatt said. Nearly all were emaciated… “In 2016, we had widespread breeding failure at all of the colonies in the Gulf of Alaska, as well as the Bering Sea,” Renner said. “It was a highly unusual event. Murres don’t fail regularly.”… “They died of starvation because there was no food,” Piatt said. “There was no food because there was no fish.”…
KYUK, Jan 25, 2017: “The birds were underweight to the point of starvation,” [Shannon Atkinson of the University of Alaska Fairbanks] said. The number of starved murres, and the length of their die-off, was something no one had seen before, but murres in the Gulf of Alaska were not the only seabirds to die in large numbers last year. Tufted puffins in the Bering Sea also showed up on beaches in large numbers… Scientists struggled to understand why a bird that spends most of the winter offshore eating fish would fly to the coast to die of starvation on the beach… research showed a link between the starving birds and trawl surveys that came up empty, or with only a few of the forage fish normally eaten by murres… “The main result to take away from this is the catch per unit effort for all of these species was very close to zero, meaning that the forage fish was simply not there,” Atkinson said.
KUCB, Dec 7, 2016: In the past two months, 300 dead puffins have washed up on St. Paul Island, alarming residents who had only seen six carcasses over the last decade… scientists say it could be the sign of a much larger ecosystem problem… [The co-director of St. Paul’s Ecosystem Conservation Office said] ‘There are dead puffins everywhere.’… The carcasses came ashore in waves… [Lauren Divine, co-director of St. Paul’s Ecosystem Conservation Office] said the extent of the die-off was frightening… “After we opened up the first five, it was very apparent that all of them were emaciated,” she said. “Their muscles were completely atrophied. They had empty stomachs. They had gastrointestinal bleeding, which indicates severe long-term starvation. They were in very, very poor shape… So we started digging into this more,” said Divine. “What is happening? Where is their food?“… [T]he ECO office is also seeing signs of stress in other species. [Divine] said the island’s seabirds laid barely any eggs this season, hunters had a hard time finding sea lions, and crab quotas were cut sharply after a survey showed low numbers.
Watch KTVA’s broadcast here: