Sea Lions, Fish Die from Toxic Algae

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BY PAUL ROLFE You're watching multisource environment news analysis from Newsy. Sick and dying sea lio...
BY PAUL ROLFE You're watching multisource environment news analysis from Newsy. Sick and dying sea lions, birds, and dolphins have been washing up on southern California coasts for the past month -- scientists think they know why -- and it’s not the apocalypse. NBC Nightly News spoke to the director of the Marine Mammal Care Center -- he says the cause is something called domoic acid. “Domoic acid toxicity results from a naturally occurring alga bloom in the ocean, and when filter feeders like sardines or anchovies eat this particular diatom, it works its way up the food chain and has a neurological effect on animals like California sea lions.” CBS Evening News reports marine centers have been rescuing record numbers of sea lions this year. They say the cause of death could also be over-population. “The center has already rescued 172 sea lions this year, 139 percent more than last year. It’s the same story 400 miles north in San Francisco ... They’ve rescued a record 890 California sea lions, one ended up in a squad car after being found on the highway ... Part of the problem could be over-population. A record 59,000 of these animals were born along the coast last year.” But most sources are reporting the domoic toxins are to blame. The director of Marine Animal Rescue tells Manhattan Beach Patch -- it’s the obvious cause. “It's obvious from the stress on their face and behavior and having seizures on the beach, it's all domoic acid ... The pregnant sea lions are hard ones to watch, and the pups inside of them don't fare very well.” KTTV in L.A. says recent massive die-offs of fish may also be a result of the toxic algae blooms. “And this acid can cause seizures, paralysis, foaming of the mouth. In fish this can cause them to be disoriented. So it’s thought that it may have been the reasons why millions of fish swam into King Harbor, you may recall, last month. An unbelievable sight there.” So where is this toxic algae coming from? KNTV in the the Bay Area says it may be a combination of warmer waters from the El Niño effect -- and pollution. “A recent study suggested that chemically polluted runoff is a major cause of environmental change in the San Francisco bay. Fertilizers and pesticides could potentially alter the ecosystem, though it's still unknown how that would affect algae.” KNTV also reports humans are at risk to domoic acid -- prompting wildlife experts to place a quarantine on harvesting live mussels. And beach-goers are urged to let authorities handle the sick wildlife that comes ashore. 'Like' Newsy on Facebook for updates in your newsfeed. Get more multisource video news analysis from Newsy. Transcript by Newsy.