Officials on the Pacific Coast are puzzled by the deaths of hundreds of small, white-bellied seabirds since October.
The birds, called Cassin’s auklets, are mostly gray in color and have blue feet. Media reports say they have been steadily washing ashore all along the Pacific Coast, from Northern California to the coast of the state of Washington, and that, naturally, is concerning wildlife and other experts because thus far they have yet to determine an exact cause for the massive deaths.
“To be this lengthy and geographically widespread, I think is kind of unprecedented,” Phillip Johnson, the executive director of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, told the Pierce Pioneer, in its online edition. “It’s an interesting and somewhat mysterious event.”
At the time of publication, the Pierce Pioneer (PP) noted that the University of Washington’s Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COSST) had gathered as many as 1,200 birds that have washed ashore over the past few months.
COSST volunteer Diane Bilderback commented that she had not found any dead auklets until the beginning of this past fall, pointing to a very recent phenomenon.
Wasting away – but why?
Other residents along the Pacific Coast have also said they have encountered scores of dead auklets in recent months, including Ken and Cathy Denton.
“We’ve seen a lot of common murres, but those are common,” Ken Denton told the PP. “This is the most we’ve seen of something else.”
Julie Parrish, the COSST executive director, said the large number of deaths, which appear to be continuing to rise, is definitely a cause for concern. She told the PP that the bulk of the birds appear to have starved to death, which she said could be caused by an unusually prolific mating season.
“Almost every breeding pair laid an egg, and as the young birds fly south for the winter they may not all be finding the small fish and shrimp they normally feed on,” she said.
That claim was backed up by Julia Burco, a veterinarian for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; she, along with other experts, believes that the birds are starving and that no toxin is responsible for their deaths.
Bird deaths follow a pattern of other mass deaths of sea life
The deaths of so many auklets comes on the heels of other mass deaths of sea-faring animals, as Natural News has documented:
— In September, we reported that millions of sea stars were dying — again, along the Pacific Coast — stretching from Alaska to Mexico. The creatures, which belong to the class of animals known as Asteroidea, have been on Earth for some 450 million years, and more than 20 species of them have been affected. Experts say dead sea stars are exhibiting signs of “wasting syndrome,” a condition which causes their limbs to disintegrate.
— The BBC reported in December that 500 dead sea lions had been discovered along the northern coastline of Peru, for no inherently obvious reason. As we reported:
The latest of several mass die-offs in recent years, the rotting corpses were found on Anconcillo Beach, located in Peru’s Ancash region. Both young and old sea lions were found at the site, which the local governor blamed on fishermen who may have poisoned them while they searched for food at the shoreline. Others like the environmental group Orca, however, say oil exploration is probably the cause.
However, a more likely cause for these deaths and others is rising levels of radiation from the disabled nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the levels of radiation in seawater from the damaged plant should peak along the U.S. Pacific Coast some time this year. That report is here.