(NaturalNews) From San Diego to San Francisco, hundreds of sea lions have been washing ashore – dead and dying.
“You could equate it to a war zone,” said Keith Matassa of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, noting that the center gets “hundreds of rescue calls a day.”
In just the first three months of 2015, already more than 1,800 sea lions have washed up on California beaches – 1,100 in March alone. Most of them are starving juveniles, often riddled with parasites or sick from pneumonia. They have even turned up in people’s backyards, apparently desperately seeking food or some kind of assistance.
“There are so many calls, we just can’t respond to them all,” said Justin Viezbicke of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “The reality is, we just can’t get to these animals.”
Prey have vanished
Researchers are unsure what has caused the disaster, but they believe it stems from low fish populations along the coastal islands that sea lions use to breed and to care for their young until they are weaned. Because food is so scarce, mother sea lions are spending more time away from the islands hunting. This causes their starving pups – too young to swim far or dive deep enough to hunt for themselves – to flood the coast in search of food.
“They come ashore because if they didn’t, they would drown,” said Shawn Johnson, the director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center. “They’re just bones and skin. They’re really on the brink of death.”
Fukushima partly to blame?
Could radiation from the Fukushima disaster be one cause? In 2011, multiple reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded, sending a massive radioactive plume spewing into the air and sea. This plume has been steadily moving east across the Pacific Ocean ever since, and is predicted to hit the coast of North America by 2017.
Since then, radioactive material has continued to flow from Fukushima into the Pacific, both accidentally and by design. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has deliberately ejected radioactive water into the ocean to keep it from building up onsite. In addition, the company reports that at least two trillion becquerels worth of material flowed unintentionally into the ocean between August 2013 and May 2014. This occurred at 10 times the release rate permitted prior to the disaster.