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Originally published April 26 2011

Shark die-off now striking San Francisco Bay

by Annie Austen

(NaturalNews) Dead leopard sharks have washed up on the shores of the San Francisco Bay and experts are now pointing to toxic waters as a possible cause. According to the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, a non-profit organization run by volunteers, this is an issue that seems to be growing worse with time.

While previous incidents of dead leopard sharks in 2006 and 2007 were related to oil spills, this new wave of carcasses could point to long-term, damaging environmental factors. Brandy Faulkner, foundation volunteer, noted similarities between the sharks recovered in 2006 and those recently dredged off the shores of Redwood City that indicate the problem may be directly related to water quality. Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the foundation, also believes that the unique similarities of the Bay Area die-offs suggest the area's broadening coastal development as a contributing cause.

Massive marine die-offs can also occur in instances of low tides or changes in water temperature, but the increase of other large-scale animal die-offs over the past few years suggests marine life all over the country suffer the effects of contaminated water and food supplies. In January, nearly thousands of dead fish washed up on the shores of the Arkansas River.

Scientists claimed there was no link between the incident and chemical exposure. More recently, a massive anchovie die-off in the Redondo Beach harbor of California was dismissed as a case of species "over-crowding."

In a revealing statement by Faulkner, the truth about the plight of the leopard sharks - and many endangered marine species - resounded: "It's like they want to be out of the water," she said. "They don't have all of their faculties. You can walk right up and pick them up, and that's not normal."

Considering the mysterious tragedy of the leopard sharks and the other large-scale animal deaths that have occurred this year, it's becoming evident that rare diseases or coincidences can no longer be used as excuses.

Environmental toxicity could be killing off animal species at a rate humans are unable to rectify. Moreover, Van Sommeran notes that one of his biggest challenges with the foundation is finding enough people to help when crises like the leopard shark die-off occur.

To volunteer with the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, call (831-459-9346).

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