Saturday 14 December 2019

The enormity of the problem is hard to get one's head around: Untold millions of tons of wildlife died in 2019 from natural disasters, extreme weather events, disease, famine: Radiation officially reported

Photo credit Rory McLeod. Dead fish at Lake Pamamaroo in the Menindee Lakes System

  • Untold millions of deaths, all are official reports
  • Record numbers of dolphins, whales, shark and turtles
  • The sad demise of Alaska's sea birds
  • Hundreds of millions of pigs dead, a quarter of the world's population due to disease
  • A study showed an increase in levels of Fukushima-related contamination off the shores of Alaska
  • A study by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa revealed almost 50% of fish consumed on the islands of Hawai’i were contaminated with caesium 134 the radioactive finger-print of Fukushima. 
  • The report also showed that migrating organisms can transport the Fukushima-signature (caesium 134) over significant distances as they showed detectable 134Cs (6.3±1.5 Bq/kg) in Pacific bluefin tuna caught off the California coast only a year after the incident. 
  • Another study found caesium 134 in longfin tuna (Albacore) along the western coast of the US just one year after the Fukushima disaster.
  • High levels of radiation had been monitored in giant clams close to the Central Pacific site where the United States entombed waste from nuclear testing almost four decades ago
  • Red tide killed 267 tons of marine life off the Southwest coast of Florida.
  • Scotland's worst salmon season ever. Some beats on famous rivers like the Spey and the Nith recorded not a single salmon caught during the entire season.
  • December, extremely low cod numbers lead feds to close the Gulf of Alaska fishery for the first time ever. 
  • Chinook mortality has lead to a North Coast fall salmon angling closure.
We have already been warned a couple of years ago that by 2020, there will be a 70% decline in all wildlife since 1980. What happened in 2019 was astonishing, the deaths of wildlife were extraordinary, to say the least. Untold millions of tons of species killed from natural disasters, extreme weather events, disease, famine and for the first time official reports on links to radiation poisoning, in the Pacific.  

My report begins in January 2019, and not for the first time we start with an Australian tragedy just days into the new year.

Millions of fish died in western NSW as drought conditions continued to grip the state during the beginning of January 2019. The fish-kill was blamed on a sharp cool change which hit the region following a period of very hot weather. Worse was to come, thousands of birds died at one of Western Australia's most important inland wetlands, the cause of deaths remains a mystery, however, the dead birds appeared in poor conditions with low body weights”. Just a week later, Record high temperatures devastated bat colonies across South Australia's state capital, Adelaide. Thousands of flying foxes were dropping from trees dead. Extreme heat which had hit the southern state in January, with the mercury at a decade-high of 46.6 degrees centigrade in the capital was the reason the flying foxes had died. Deaths of wild horses were discovered near Santa Teresa were blamed on the extreme heat. The mass die-off occurred at a dry waterhole in central Australia another 50 had to be culled because of poor health. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of dead fish were found floating in the Murray-Darling Basin. Port Augusta was the hottest place in South Australia when the temperature hit 49.5C, (122 deg F) which was thought to be the reason the fish died. The disaster was not over, in the first week of February, authorities began to realise the extent of the record-breaking floods in Queensland after more than a year's rain fell in just seven days. According to Reuters, authorities planned to drop fodder to stranded cattle in Australia’s flooded far north were vast parts of the outback was under-water, livestock losses were estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. “We’ve had a year and a half of rainfall in about seven days,” cattle grazier Michael Bulley told Reuters by phone from Bindooran Station west of Julia Creek in Queensland’s outback. Bulley said he flew over his three properties by helicopter and saw water stretching for miles in each direction. He estimated up to 60 per cent of the cattle he had fed through the drought had been killed by the flooding.
“It’s devastated the country...there’s stock dead everywhere,” he said. “Not just cattle, it’s sheep, kangaroos, wild pigs, they’ve all died and suffered from it.”

Another report in January 2019, claimed the Florida red tide outbreak which began in 2017 had killed more sea turtles than any previous single red tide event on record, and manatee deaths were not far behind. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, (FWC) attributed 589 sea turtles and 213 manatee deaths to this episode of red tide, which began in late 2017. The red tide outbreak had also killed 127 bottlenose dolphins as of the beginning of 2019, leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare an unusual mortality event. Combined manatee deaths from red tide, human actions, cold stress and other causes was at 824, according to the preliminary FWC report. Apart from the manatee, sea turtles and bottlenose dolphins deaths, it is thought billions of fish and countless birdlife had also died. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission came up with an official number of deaths during that period, they claimed the red tide had killed 267 tons of marine life, however, I covered the entirety of the red tide outbreak and believe me, 267 tons is a very conservative estimate.

In the first week of February, scientists were trying to find out why some 20,000 guillemots had died suddenly along the Dutch coast. The birds were all emaciated. Mardik Leopold, a seabird expert from Wageningen University in Holland, said the figure of 20,000 dead guillemots was based on educated guesswork and many thousands more would have died out at sea. Mr Leopold blamed the deaths on starvation, a theme which arises many many times with sea birds recently, as you will read in this book.

Meanwhile, just a 100 km east of the dead guillemots another mystery was unfolding, thousands of headless fish with their bladders torn out had mysteriously washed ashore in Germany. A blanket of dead fish was seen covering 150 square meters of the harbour in the small town of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Many of the different sized fish were missing their heads while nearly all appeared to have had their bladders torn out.

It used to be the best salmon fishing in the world but according to the Scotsman, global warming was being blamed for Scotland's worst salmon season ever. Some beats on famous rivers like the Spey and the Nith recorded not a single salmon caught during the entire season. Just two salmon were caught on the River Fyne in Argyll this year, where once more than 700 were caught each season. Roger Brook, director of the Argyll Fisheries Trust, said: "Salmon is in decline everywhere but they are declining more on the west coast of Scotland and they're declining more the further down the west coast you go."It's dreadful now in Argyll. I don't know whether it's too late now to put it right.” He said.

Record warm summers in the Pacific Northwest were adding to the threats facing salmon. The Weather Channel reported: The salmon population is already in drastic decline due to overfishing, habitat loss and pollution.
Now higher temperatures in rivers and streams are killing adult salmon before they can reproduce. Dwindling winter snowpack is also shrinking rivers and streams. Fish Hatchery workers report seeing more perish in the stream beds before they can spawn. The federal government has issued a disaster declaration for Alaska's pink salmon fishery and several other salmon and crab fisheries along the West Coast. Gov. Bill Walker requested the declaration after the 2017 pink salmon harvests in Kodiak, Prince William Sound, Chignik and lower Cook Inlet came in far below forecast, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported. The disaster declaration granted by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker gave Kodiak and the other Alaska fisheries the ability to seek disaster relief assistance from Congress because of the unexpected large decreases in salmon returns.

We are still only into the middle of February 2019, when thousands of cuttlefish mysteriously washed ashore in Chile's Bahia Inglesa, a coastal area that is one of the country's main tourist hotspots. Locals said such an incident has not happened before, and environmental authorities are investigating and have warned locals not to eat the fish amidst pollution fears. There were huge concerns that the dead fish could damage the region's fishing industry, a major driver of the local economy. The deaths remain, as ever, a mystery.

Just 62 days into 2019 and already 600 dolphins had washed up dead, with many more dolphins dead at the bottom of the ocean or washed out to sea rather than ending up on the beaches. While dead dolphins wash up on beaches in France each year scientists say the situation is alarming with the figure being much higher than any previous year at the same period.
According to The Local fr, the dolphins are washing up on the stretch of Atlantic coast running from southern Brittany to the Spanish border with large numbers of carcasses found in the departments of Vendée and the Charentes Maritimes. Most of the dead dolphins found bear injury marks which researchers say are caused by big fishing boats and the large fishing nets they use. "Among the carcasses found, 93 per cent show signs that they have been captured by fishing vessels and their equipment such as mutilations, amputations and fractured jaws," according to the French environmental charity France Nature Environment (FNE).

From January 2016 to mid-February 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded 88 humpback whale strandings with New York, Virginia, and Massachusetts at the top of the list. Those numbers are more than double the number that of whales stranded between 2013 and 2016. This increase prompted NOAA to declare an “unusual mortality event” in April 2017 for humpbacks from Maine to Florida. Nearly two years later, the declaration still stands. But if we step back and look at the bigger picture we can see the problem is on both sides of the Atlantic and not just with humpback whales. On the 3rd of March, it was revealed already 600 dolphins had washed up dead in 2019, with many more dolphins dead at the bottom of the ocean or had washed out to sea rather than ending up on the beaches. Cornwall Live reported at the end of January that experts had recorded 30 dead dolphins and porpoises which had been washed up on Cornwall’s coastline, England in January alone. Wildlife experts are raising their concerns after eight marine mammals washed up along the Dorset coast, England during a three week period. At the end of February, the Irish Examiner reported seven dolphins and a sperm whale had been found dead in one week along the Cork coastline. In January Publico reported six dead whales off the coast of Galicia Southern Spain had died in less than a month.

In March, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission claimed an unknown virus may be to blame for hundreds of turtles dying in the St. Johns River. According to a spokesperson for the commission, scientists at the University of Florida have identified a novel virus in 18 dead turtles discovered along the river. They said the virus seems to be a common link in the samples. Since last March, FWC claimed more about 300 fresh-water softshell and cooter turtles have been reported dead or sick in the massive river. Experts agreed it didn’t appear to be the toxic algae is contributing to the deaths, nor do any other types of animals seem to be affected.

Into April, the Aegean Sea witnessed a "very unusual" spike in dolphin deaths over a two week period, claimed a Greek marine conservation group. The Archipelagos Institute said while it's still unclear what caused the deaths, the spike followed Turkey's largest-ever navy drills in the region, on Feb. 27-March 8, the "Blue Homeland" exercises which made constant use of sonar and practised with live ammunition. Fifteen dead dolphins had washed up on the eastern island of Samos and other parts of Greece's Aegean coastline since late February, the group said. Its head of research, Anastassia Miliou, told The Associated Press that 15 is a worryingly high number compared to "one or two" in the same period last year. The deafening noise of sonar, used by warships to detect enemy submarines, can injure dolphins and whales, driving them to surface too fast or to beach themselves - with sometimes fatal consequences - as they try to escape the underwater din.

In May another disaster was unfolding, Vietnam had culled more than 1.2 million farmed pigs infected with African swine fever. the government claimed as the virus continued to spread rapidly in the Southeast Asian country. Pork accounts for three-quarters of total meat consumption in Vietnam, a country of 95 million people where most of its 30 million farm-raised pigs are consumed domestically. The disease, which is harmless to humans but incurable in pigs, has also spread quickly across neighbouring China.

In May, Florida’s worst nightmare had returned, the unprecedented horror of 2018 for Florida's beaches when toxic algae killed thousands of tons of marine life and had returned. Red tide was back in Manatee County shores. Red tide hit Manatee County hard last year. Starting in early August 2018, it dumped hundreds of tons of dead fish and other marine animals on local beaches and in canals and other waterways. It clouded the Gulf of Mexico and polluted the air, and hurt hotels and other tourist-related businesses.

Back across the pond and shocking footage showed hundreds of dead sharks washed up on a beach in Wales leaving locals baffled. Many of the sharks were found to have their fins missing - sparking fears they may have been cut off before the fish were tossed back into the sea. A spokesman for the Marine Conservation Society said the fish appeared to be smooth-hounds, also known as dogfish, a type of shark common in British waters."It was mostly smooth-hounds down Burry Port, but heavily pregnant ones with pups hanging out of them. I'm sure what we saw was a small percentage of what was thrown back.
More salmon problems, a sudden surge in algae killed at least eight million salmon in one week in May across Norwegian fish farms, the state-owned Norwegian Seafood Council has said. An enormous algal bloom, due to recent warm weather, had spread rapidly around Norway's northern coast, sticking to fishes' gills and suffocating them. Wild fish can swim away from the lethal clouds of aquatic organisms, but farmed fish are trapped. The algae are continuing to spread, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries said. The organisation said on Tuesday that more than 10,000 tonnes of farmed salmon had been killed. Preliminary numbers point to eight million dead fish, corresponding to 40,000 tonnes of salmon that won't reach markets," Seafood Council analyst Paul Aandahl said. Norway is the world's largest exporter of salmon and the effect of the millions of deaths will likely see half the expected growth in salmon volumes wiped out this year as a result, while prices are likely to rise.

What comes out the ocean reflects its bio-health, May was a disaster for the West Coast of North America. A shark die-off in San Francisco Bay was being blamed on a parasite in the water. So far up to May about 100 leopard sharks had washed up onto beaches around the area, not just in Alameda. Many more will have died out at sea. Up to May, 93 dead dolphins had washed up along the Gulf of Mexico coast with many more thought to have died out at sea. A fifth grey whale was found dead on British Columbia's coast in what one research biologist says could be a trend towards of record-setting deaths. John Calambokidis of the Cascadia Research Collective based in Olympia, Wash., said that 23 grey whales have been found dead this year in his state, and the dead greys are all found along the same migratory route. Those deaths brought the total number of carcasses found along the migration route from California to Alaska up to 70, according to figures from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. Hundreds of Common Murres, an ocean-going bird native to the Pacific Coast from the Channel Islands to the tip of the Aleutians in Alaska, have been reported washed up dead or dying on beaches along a 10-mile stretch of coastline in Mendocino County between Noyo Bay and Seaside Beach. Many more were dying out at sea.

San Fransisco, at least 53 dead or dying gray whales washed up on West Coast beaches in the spring of 2019, a death rate that’s only been seen once before. The great mammals are starving to death and scientists have theories as to why but so far no full explanation???? The number of deaths is likely to be much higher because it’s estimated that only 10% of dead whales end up on shore, said John Calambokidis, a research biologist with the non-profit Cascadia Research in Olympia, Washington, who studies whale populations on the West Coast. That could mean as many as 530 whales have died, which is a large number for a population that is estimated to be just over 20,000.

Thousands of dead jellyfish washed up on a Hilton Head beach. Hilton Head Islanders are used to seeing a few dead jellyfish cluttering the shoreline, but the scene on South Beach in May appeared to be a jellyfish catastrophe when thousands of small cannonball jellyfish washed up on the shore stretching more than a mile. Looking in both directions from Tower Beach in Sea Pines, dead jellyfish littered the tide line.

Into the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston, the number of sea turtle strandings along the Texas coastline reached the highest number ever recorded in one month during April and May, the height of sea turtle nesting season. A total of 159 stranded sea turtles were recorded in April—the highest number of strandings in one month since monitoring began in 1980. Strandings are continuing at a rapid pace, and the latest data shows 186 turtles stranded in Texas through May 21.

In June Bill Laughing-Bear a researcher who often shares his work on my blog came across a dead gray whale, Bill was alarmed by the number of gray whales dying off the coast of Alaska, Bill wrote: “On the second of June, I had to make a road trip which took me along Turnagain Arm and rounding a bend on the Seward Highway, just right before a bridge on one of the tributaries, I noticed on my right, a gray whale lying dead on top of the silt.” “ I had heard that many whales had recently died and people had asked if radiation was a possible cause?” “ The authorities had said, absolutely NOT!” “I decided to test the dead whale for radiation with my Quarta, Radex, model RD 1503, made to test gamma radiation in homes, offices, food products, construction materials, soil, etc.” “Regrettably, I could only, without getting my boots wet, take a scan of the whales tail.” “As I had suspected, the whale read positive for radiation.” “The radiation levels were higher than many of the salmon and halibut levels I had tested which had spiked 27% since my testing began in 2012, a year after the Fukushima disaster.” “I pondered since I am not a marine biologist, “would the readings be higher up toward the stomach area of the whale?” “ Unfortunately I could not go into the water that far to test it.” “However, I can positively state that this gray whale was radioactive and although I do not know if that was the cause of its death, I am highly suspicious it was a factor.

A study showed an increase in levels of Fukushima-related contamination off the shores of Alaska, regular readers of The Big Wobble will know Bill Laughing-Bear has been keeping an eye on fish in Alaskan waters and has warned us all of rising radioactive contamination for years now. Recently other warnings have been published as the slow drip-drip-drop of information is slowly increasing. A study by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa revealed almost 50% of fish consumed on the islands of Hawai’i were contaminated with caesium 134 the radioactive finger-print of Fukushima. The report also showed that migrating organisms can transport the Fukushima-signature (caesium 134) over significant distances as they showed detectable 134Cs (6.3±1.5 Bq/kg) in Pacific bluefin tuna caught off the California coast only a year after the incident. Another study found caesium 134 in longfin tuna (Albacore) along the western coast of the US just one year after the Fukushima disaster.

Also in June, high levels of radiation in giant clams led one expert to ask “in what way was Runit [Dome] a cleanup?” (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times). High levels of radiation had been monitored in giant clams close to the Central Pacific site where the United States entombed waste from nuclear testing almost four decades ago, raising concerns the contamination is spreading from the dump site’s tainted groundwater into the ocean and the food chain. The findings from the Marshall Islands suggest that radiation is either leaking from the waste site — which U.S. officials reject — or that authorities did not adequately clean up radiation left behind from past weapons testing, as some in the Marshall Islands claims. According to a photograph taken of Hamilton’s presentation slides, the 377-foot-wide crater in Enewetak Atoll contains groundwater samples with radiation levels 1,000 to 6,000 times higher than those found in the open ocean.

Alarmed by the high number of gray whales that have been washing up dead on West Coast beaches in spring 2019, the federal government declared the troubling trend a wildlife emergency. So far this year, (up to June) at least 70 gray whales have been found dead and stranded along the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska according to NOAA, however, the numbers that wash up represent a fraction of the total and a vast majority go unreported. No official agency has ever blamed the number of die-offs along the West Coast of North America on radiation as far as I am aware.

More than 260 dolphins were found stranded along the northern Gulf of Mexico since February 1st, up to June 2019. According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA), that's three times the usual amount. The increase had prompted NOAA Fisheries to declare yet another Unusual Mortality Event.

Oyster fishermen claimed 100 per cent of what they dredge up is dead along waters near the Biloxi marsh, which is not only a serious hit to their livelihoods but could have lasting impacts for years to come. This year (2019) was supposed to be the most lucrative for him until the oysters started dying. Perez blames this swirling blue-green algae blooms he's seen intensify in the area. He says it's killed off all the oysters he was planning to harvest, including the young oysters that would be ready years from now. "Twenty-five square miles of blue-green algae in this area, and everybody's oyster farm in this area they're 100 per cent completely dead," said Perez.
A spokesperson with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says as the oysters die, and the flood continues, the crisis is just beginning for those in the oyster industry.
A report in the Guardian claimed in June 2019, that thousands of dead mussels, their shells gaping and scorched and their meats thoroughly cooked were found along a 150 mile stretch of northern Californian coastline. According to the Guardian, the record-breaking June heatwave caused the largest die-off of mussels in at least 15 years at Bodega Head, a small headland on the northern California bay, with a similar mass mussel deaths at various beaches across roughly 150 miles of coastline. The mussel beds, where the rock-bound molluscs live could have been experiencing temperatures above 100F at low tide, literally roasting in their shells.

Into July, dozens of dead beached whales were spotted by sightseers during a helicopter flight over western Iceland. The dead pilot whales were photographed during the trip over a beach at Longufjorur. It's unclear how the mammals became beached. The region where they were spotted is secluded, inaccessible by car and has very few visitors. The helicopter pilot told the BBC, “We landed and counted about 60 but there must have been more because fins were sticking out of the sand.”

In August, a disturbing report from Stephanie Quinn Davidson, the Director of the Yukon Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, claimed, from the Koyukuk River to the Kuskokwim, to Norton Sound, to Bristol Bay's Igushik River, unusually warm temperatures across Alaska this summer, (2019) had led to die-offs of unspawned chum, sockeye, and pink salmon. Warm waters also this summer had acted as a "thermal block" - essentially a wall of heat, salmon can’t swim past, delaying upriver migration. The total run was more than 1.4 million chum, she said, with some arriving before the warm weather event. Juneau-based research scientist for the University of Montana Chris Sergeant co-wrote a paper on warm, crowded, low waters' effect on salmon. In essence, warm, low water plus large populations of salmon can lead salmon to suffocate. When it was sunny out, it just heats that river faster." Though Sands doesn't have estimates of the actual number of fish that died, based on the set netter catch rate he said between 200,000 and 300,000 were in the river during the warm water event that killed the salmon there. A small amount of fish - he estimates between 500 and 700 - made it up to the spawning grounds during the thermal block, but most of the escapement goal was met from fish that swam upriver afterwards. The die-offs "are happening around the state and seems to have coincided with that week of really warm, warm temperatures," Quinn-Davidson said.

In September, Alaska was in the news again, 2019 was Alaska’s hottest summer on record. In May 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Park Service (NPS) began receiving reports of dead and dying seabirds from the northern Bering and Chukchi seas, including near Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. From late June to early August, thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters were reported dead and washing up on beaches in the Bristol Bay region, or observed weak and attempting to feed on salmon gillnets in inland waters. By mid-August, the shearwater die-off had extended north, in smaller numbers but widespread locations, into the northern Bering and Chukchi seas along the coasts of Alaska and the Chukotka Peninsula of Russia. Puffins, murres, and auklets are also being reported. Many more thousands of birds had probably died out at sea.

A crippling drought which is said to have brought millions of people in Zimbabwe facing the risk of starvation has reduced crop levels. The drought is affecting wildlife too, at least 55 elephants have starved to death in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park over the past two months amid a severe drought. "The situation is dire," Zimparks spokesman Tinashe Farawo said. "The elephants are dying from starvation and this is a big problem." The drought has massively reduced crop levels in Zimbabwe.

October brought Australia back into the spotlight, another mass fish kill event had been spotted in western NSW, nine months after millions of fish had died on the nearby banks of the Darling River. New aerial footage appeared to show hundreds of thousands of dead fish at Lake Pamamaroo in the Menindee Lakes System, near Broken Hill. Darry Clifton, from the Darling River Action Group, said he was not surprised by another apparent fish kill. "There are thousands upon thousands from what I can see around the edge of that water area," he told the ABC. states manage extreme fish death events, maintaining a database to register fish kills and providing water to mitigate the emergency. 

Authorities were still working to find out why millions of dead and dying mussels were found washed ashore at Cheynes Beach, near Albany on Western Australia's south coast in October. Millions of small green mussels had washed up on a WA south-coast beach with authorities warning people to be careful of harmful bacteria from the die-off. There were also several other species on the shore, including starfish.

November 2019 revealed there is not enough pork in the world’ to deal with China’s demand for meat. Hundreds of millions of pigs, 40% of the total have died or have been culled from swine fever, and the prices are soaring. A report by the Guardian claimed, since August 2018, when China notified the World Organisation for Animal Health that ASF (swine fever) was in the country, the disease has spread with extraordinary speed. Some 40% of Chinese pigs – hundreds of millions of animals – have now been lost, and the result has been a chronic shortage of pork and rocketing prices. The Chinese government has been forced to dig into its gigantic emergency reserves of frozen meat. “The producer price has risen 125% since July,” said Rupert Claxton of international food consultancy Girafood. 

In November, Australia was suddenly linked to the Alaskan sea bird die-off when thousands of short-tailed shearwaters migrating from Alaska had been washing up on Sydney's iconic beaches, with who knows how many more dying out at sea in what could be confirmation of incredible fish shortages in the Pacific Ocean. The corpses had been spotted at several shorelines including Bondi, Manly and Cronulla. The birds were migrating back to southern Australia to breed after spending the summer in Alaska. But, according to experts, a higher number than usual are dying on the way due to a lack of food. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the birds had died of starvation. Numerous shearwaters also washed up on Russia's Chukotka Peninsula as well.

As the wildfires begin to hit Australia, one of the main concerns is the just how many animals and insects lost their life in the fires, a horrific report claimed beekeepers were traumatised after hearing animals screaming in pain after bushfires, the beekeepers were so horrified they needed counselling. The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) believes Koalas may be functionally extinct in the entire landscape of Australia and the raging bushfires must have claimed even more of the vulnerable Koalas. In the last 20 years, the Koalas population has declined by more than 40%, about 80,000 in total.

At the beginning of December, extremely low cod numbers lead feds to close the Gulf of Alaska fishery for the first time. In an unprecedented response to historically low numbers of Pacific cod, the federal cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska was closing for the 2020 season. It’s a decision that came as little surprise, but it’s the first time the fishery was closed due to concerns of low stock. A stock assessment this fall put Gulf cod populations at a historic low, with “next to no” new eggs, according to NOAA research biologist Steve Barbeaux, who authored the report. Up until the emergence of a marine heatwave known as “the blob” in 2014, Gulf cod was doing well. But the heatwave caused ocean temperatures to rise 4-5 degrees. Young cod started dying off, scientists said. “A lot of the impact on the population was due to that first heatwave that we haven’t recovered from,” Barbeaux said during an interview last month. Following the first heatwave, cod numbers crashed by more than half, from 113,830 metric tons in 2014 to 46,080 (a loss of almost 68,000) metric tons in 2017. The decline was steady from there. 

Last month The Big Wobble reported more misery for Alaskan pink salmon fisheries. Prince William Sound Science Center field season was marked by a low flow and high pre-spawn mortality. This year, virtually no rain led to extremely low flows and field crews observed unprecedented pre-spawning die-offs and unusually late migration into the streams. According to the Prince William Sound Science Center, the fish finally started, what was for many, an ill-fated journey into the streams after some rain in early September. The rain stopped and the rivers dried up again. Soon thousands of fish were restricted to tide pools without enough water to return to the bays. They all suffocated. “During the first 10 days of September, our dead fish count in one of our streams rose from virtually none to nearly 30,000 dead pink salmon, all dying before spawning”. “Our field crews estimated 10,000 died over a single night. We have never documented anything like that in the past.”

Chinook mortality has lead to a North Coast fall salmon angling closure. Tillamook: A recent die-off of fall of Chinook salmon in the Wilson River has prompted fishery managers to close the entire North Coast in Oregon to all salmon angling, effective December 13 – 31 (2019). The closure includes all North Coast basins from the Nestucca River to the Necanicum River. Monitoring of North Coast basins, in response to the recent die-off, observed in the Wilson River and by reports from the public of similar mortality events in other rivers, revealed substantial deaths of fall Chinook salmon. Additional pre-spawn mortalities have been observed in the Wilson River since last week’s closure as well. The mortality is attributed to the spread of cryptobia, a naturally occurring parasite which only affects certain fish species reported the News Of Lincoln County

All photos and links to official reports related to my post above can be found here and here and here

Compiled, researched and written by Gary Walton.