(NaturalNews) More sick and dying animals are washing up on the coast of California, with new reports indicating record numbers of young sea lions, seals, and other marine mammals being admitted to care shelters for rehabilitation. The Orange County Register reports that the only facility in the county licensed to care for marine mammals is now at capacity, and that other facilities all along the coastline are being similarly inundated.
The normally pudgy and active creatures are increasingly turning up emaciated and dehydrated, a mysterious phenomenon that the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center (MMC) has monitored across a 600-mile area of coastline that stretches from Mendocino to San Luis Obispo. After washing ashore, many of these sick marine mammals are too week to even get back in the water, let alone survive on their own.
"We thought it was going to be a nice calm year; in the last month it's just spiked," stated Melissa Sciacca, the director of development at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach. Hundreds of ailed sea lions turned up last year as well, but the early part of this year was mostly quiet, that is until recently. "The rescues just keep coming in at a steady pace."
Sharp uptick in injured sea animals following Fukushima
According to reports, this is only the third time ever that the PMMC has been at capacity with sick animals, the first time having occurred in 2009 and the second time last year. Like in years past, the animals being rescued today exhibit the same strange symptoms, almost as if something attacked or infected their bodies, preventing them from developing normally.
"Once we get them nourished, they do fine out there," added PMMC executive director Keith Matassa, as quoted by the OC Register. In his assessment, the sea lions' mothers may not be producing enough milk, or they themselves may be getting exposed to toxins or some other damaging factor. "It's all circling around food issues."
Dr. Shawn Johnson, director of the MMC's veterinary sciences department, seems to agree. He told SFGate.com that most of the sick marine mammals being admitted to the center appear to be starving to death, either from a dearth of available food or from an inability to capture and consume it. Either way, the animals are suffering and nobody seems to know why.
"The ones we are seeing are basically starving to death," he told SFGate.com. "It's definitely a mystery. We're hoping it's not the new norm."
Sick, dying animals turning up all across Pacific Coast
Similar events are occurring elsewhere along the Pacific Coast, including in Alaska where dozens of sea lions, whales and other creatures recently turned up dead. Researchers there believe that radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster may be responsible, especially since many of the dead creatures are exhibiting signs of radiation poisoning, including unusual baldness and skin sores.
A 2011 symposium on Fukushima radiation and its effects on marine life essentially predicted these outcomes, having modeled how radiation accumulation on sea ice might harm sea lions, for instance. It explained how radiation exposure in these areas represents an ongoing immunotoxic threat to these innocent creatures, not to mention the damage it can inflict on the thyroid gland and skin.
"Marine transported Fukushima radionuclides... may represent a new stressor to the ecosystem," reads a poster for the meeting.