Thursday 16 January 2020

Alaska the largest mass die-off of seabirds in recorded history: Millions have died since 2015: 2019 fish crisis: Pacific Cod, Salmon, crab, herring, sardines, all gone! Will New Zealand be next?

US Fish and Wildlife Fact Sheet

Record-breaking warm

2019 was a record-breaking year for Alaska in many ways but mostly bad. Monday, December the 9th was the warmest December day ever recorded in Alaska. Alaska's low on December the 9th was warmer than the average high for the time of the year, Anchorage recorded a high of 51 deg F, (10.5 deg C), on Monday the 9th which is more than double the December average. 

In 2019, Alaska broke heat records in the Spring, the Summer, Autumn and Winter, Parts of Alaska recorded their warmest February and March on record with temperatures +40 deg F above normal. In July, Alaska hit 89 degrees F, (32 deg C), to break the all-time highest temperature ever recorded: Campbell Creek hit 91 degrees F, (33 deg C) July 2019 now stands as Alaska’s hottest month on record.

Pacific Cod, Salmon, crab, herring, sardines, all gone!

2019 broke other records too, extremely low cod numbers lead feds to close the Gulf of Alaska fishery for the first time ever. In an unprecedented response to historically low numbers of Pacific cod, the federal cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska closed 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. The warmest February and March on record with temperatures +40 deg F above normal killed off the Crab fishing season. In November 2019, The Big Wobble reported more misery for the Alaskan fishing industry. Prince William Sound Science Center field season was marked by a low flow and high pre-spawn mortality. 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. Other reports from Alaskan fishermen claimed herring, sardines, had all gone too

It is just the tip of the iceberg!

In November 2019, thousands of short-tailed shearwaters birds migrating from Alaska were washing up dead on Sydney's iconic beaches and the bird deaths had nothing to do with the massive wildfires in the area, worse still, thousands more, short-tailed shearwaters were dying out at sea. 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, an unknown number were dying on the way back to Australia due to a lack of food. The birds need to be at full strength to make the 14,000km trip over the Pacific but the krill and other fish they feed on have apparently dwindled.

BirdLife Australia has rendered the problem a 'crisis'. In a statement on its website, the group says: 'For the fifth consecutive year, the sea surface temperatures off Alaska have been unusually warm, which has led to a dire shortage of the shearwaters' marine prey, resulting in thousands of dead shearwaters being washed ashore along Alaska's beaches. 'According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they died of starvation. 'It wasn't a single event, though; instead, it was a series of catastrophic die-offs. 'Starting in late June, these die-offs continued along different sections of the Alaskan coast, occurring progressively further south, through into August. 'Numerous shearwaters also washed up on Russia's Chukotka Peninsula as well. 'Although many thousands of birds were found dead and dying on the beach, this is likely the tip of the iceberg.'

Millions of birds have died since 2015

Historically, seabird die-offs have occurred occasionally in Alaska; however, large die-off events are now occurring each year since 2015. (TBW Quote: millions of small sea birds have been reported dead since 2015, this year it's Short-tailed Shearwaters but recent years have seen puffins, murres, and auklets dying thought to be due to starvation). 

When nearly one million common murres died at sea and washed ashore from California to Alaska in 2015 and 2016, it was unprecedented -- both for murres and across all bird species worldwide. Scientists blame an unexpected squeeze on the ecosystem's food supply, brought on by a severe and long-lasting marine heatwave known as 'the blob.' The common murre is a self-sufficient, resilient bird. Though the seabird must eat about half of its body weight in prey each day, common murres are experts at catching the small "forage fish" they need to survive. Herring, sardines, anchovies and even juvenile salmon are no match for a hungry murre. So when nearly one million common murres died at sea and washed ashore from California to Alaska in 2015 and 2016, it was unprecedented -- both for murres and across all bird species worldwide. 

The largest mass die-off of seabirds in recorded history: The die-off of  Cassin's auklets, the tufted puffin, the common murre and the short-tailed shearwaters are unprecedented but throw into the mix the demise of Pacific cod, salmon, crab, herring, sardines and other fish and the overall picture is very worrying  

Scientists from the University of Washington, the U.S. Geological Survey and others blame an unexpected squeeze on the ecosystem's food supply, brought on by a severe and long-lasting marine heatwave known as "the blob." As the largest mass die-off of seabirds in recorded history, the common murre event may help explain the other die-offs that occurred during the northeast Pacific marine heatwave, and also serve as a warning for what could happen during future marine heatwaves, the authors said. UW scientists recently identified another marine heatwave forming off the Washington coast and up into the Gulf of Alaska. "All of this -- as with the Cassin's auklet mass mortality and the tufted puffin mass mortality -- demonstrates that a warmer ocean world is a very different environment and a very different coastal ecosystem for many marine species," said Parrish, who is also the executive director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, known as COASST. "Seabirds, are highly visible members of that system, are bellwethers of that change." Science Daily
Credit NOAA. The Pacific Blob has returned and is causing havoc for marine life. Click on image to enlarge.

It's not over-fishing, climate change what is killing the fish and then the birds.

North Pacific Fisheries Management Council member Nicole Kimball claims it’s not over-fishing to blame for the die-off, but rather, climate change. Warming ocean temperatures linked to climate change are wreaking havoc on a number of Alaska’s fisheries, worrying biologists, locals and fishermen with low returns that jeopardize fishing livelihoods. 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. 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. AK 

And now New Zealand?

A new "Pacific Blob," has mysteriously appeared off the East Coast of New Zealand and is a reflection of another more famous, "Pacific Blob," which lies off the coast of Alaska and is thought to be the reason of lack of fish resulting in the deaths of millions of seabirds from starvation in the vast area since 2015.

Will the new "blob," be just as devastating for wildlife off the East Coast of New Zealand as it is in Alaska?

The new mysterious "Southern Blob," is an enormous area, according to NZHeraldIn fact, the blob is a very big patch of water measuring tens of thousands of square kilometres where the water is 4C above the average temperature of 10C to 15C on a similar latitude to Wellington in the Pacific Ocean. The central hot spot is about the size of the North Island(114,000sq km) or the South Island(150,000sq km). The wider area is larger than both islands combined. "Sea temperatures don't actually vary too much and a degree, plus or minus, is quite a big deal and this area is probably four degrees or more than that above average and that's pretty huge. "Right in the centre of the "blob", it's likely to be more than six degrees warmer than average. "It's extremely warm water in terms of differences from average, it's got to be one of the warmest spots on the planet at the moment," said Renwick. At 20C, the blob in the southern Pacific is getting up there with temperatures in the Tropics that start in the 20s and reach 30C, (86 deg F) and there lies the problem for the fragile ecosystem, it will simply collapse
Earthwindmap showing the new Pacific blob off the east coast of New Zealand

A God Clock? Sea and Surface Temperatures, Major Earthquakes, Volcano Eruptions, Droughts, Extreme Temperatures, Famine, Flooding, Wildfires and Cyclones suddenly intensified in the late 50s!

Climate Change 2020

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