Monday 5 October 2020

History Repeating! Thousands of short-tailed shearwaters fail to arrive at Victorian breeding ground for second year running as experts fear the little migratory shorebird colony have died during their 16,000km journey due to lack of fish in the Pacific

Last year thousands of short-tailed shearwaters migrating from Alaska were washing up on Sydney's iconic beaches, Photo Credit Daily Mail.

Bird experts are concerned after a migratory shorebird colony failed to arrive in south-east Australia in time for the start of the breeding season for the second straight year. The short-tailed shearwater, or muttonbird, is one of Australia's most common and hardy birds.

Each year the birds clock up more than 32,000 kilometres, following the warm weather between the northern and southern hemispheres as they chase an "eternal summer".

Known for their endurance and accuracy, the birds usually arrive along Victoria's south-east coast to breed within 48 hours of September 22, however, for the first time ever they failed to show last year and it's happened again this year.

It is now two weeks since September the 22nd and there is so far no sign of the birds arriving. Last year a small proportion of the short-tailed shearwaters did arrive weeks later than they should and those that did turn up were emaciated and exhausted.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, bird watchers in the northern hemisphere reported large-scale die-offs around Alaska, where the birds went to feed over the Australian winter. Alaska has witnessed mass die-offs of several sea bird species since 2015 with many experts blaming the deaths on lack of fish in the Pacific Ocean to sustain the birds, especially on such a long journey.

Last year, the birds that did make the long journey migrating from Alaska were washing up dead 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 were spotted at several shorelines including Bondi, Manly and Cronulla. The birds migrate 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. 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 due to sea temperatures rising.

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 as the majority of the birds will have died out at sea.'

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

Consistently, dead birds examined from the Bering and Chukchi seas during these recent die-offs were determined to have died due to starvation. Seabird carcasses from the 2019 die-off events were collected from multiple locations and sent to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center for examination and testing. Initial results indicate starvation as the cause of death for most locations. However, in southeast Alaska, exposure to saxitoxin (a biotoxin associated with paralytic shellfish poisoning) was linked in June to a localized die-off of breeding Arctic Terns.

The Big Wobble has been reporting an unprecedented seabird die-off in Alaska and Canada since 2015.

Climate change is considered by scientists as a significant contributor to seabird declines with reports of British species such as terns and kittiwakes facing an uncertain future as sea temperatures rise. Puffins, in particular, have suffered enormous losses in recent years and a report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature in April warned the iconic species was at risk of extinction.

Last year thousands of dead seabirds washed ashore on sites from islands in the Bering Sea to villages north of the Bering Strait, signs of another large die-off in the warmed-up waters of the North Pacific Ocean. (The actual numbers was in the millions as most  die at sea.) The dead birds are mostly northern fulmars and short-tailed shearwaters, species that migrate long distances to spend summers in waters off Alaska and other northern regions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported.

Also in the mix are some kittiwakes, murres and auklets, the federal agency said.
The cause is being investigated. Necropsies so far show that the birds are emaciated - with no food in their stomachs or intestines and little or no fat on their bodies.
"Right now, we know that they are starving to death and can't hold their heads above water, and they're drowning," said Ken Stenek, a teacher in Shishmaref and volunteer in a program that monitors seabirds.

The precise toll is unclear.

The new die-off follows a massive loss of common murres in 2015 and 2016, 2017 and 2018 and 2019, the biggest murre die-off on record in Alaska, and a precursor to near-total reproductive failures for murres in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering.
It also follows the deaths of thousands of puffins found last fall on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs and, prior to that, mass deaths of murres and auklets along the U.S. West Coast.

In each death wave, starving birds have left emaciated carcasses, and each wave has been associated with unusually warm marine waters. The University Of Aberdeen has issued the latest depressing news of a catastrophic die-off, this time the unfortunate species is the world's seabirds.

Due to overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution, populations have dropped by an incredible 70% since the 1970s, (can you imagine if the worlds human population fell by 70% in just 50 years?Scientists compared two time periods – 1970 to 1989 and 1990 to 2010 – to assess the degree of competition seabirds faced for prey species such as anchovy, mackerel and squid.

According to the Independent, the team then estimated the annual consumption of those prey species for nearly 300 varieties of seabird, based on population counts and models. This was then compared to annual catches by fishing boats as contained in the Sea Around Us world database. The scientists found that the total annual seabird consumption decreased from 70 to 57 millions of tonnes over the study period, while annual fishery catches increased from 59 to 65 millions tonnes over the same period.

"Our research shows, that despite the decline of the world seabird community between 1970-1989 and 1990-2010, competition with fisheries remained sustained," said the study's lead author Dr Aurore Ponchon from the University of Aberdeen."This competition was even enhanced in almost half the oceans."This enhanced competition, in addition to other factors such as pollution, predation by invasive species on chicks, the destruction and changes in their habitat by human activities and environmental changes caused by climate change, puts seabirds at risk, making them the most threatened bird group.” She added: "This study calls for improved management of the world's fisheries to alleviate competition pressure on seabird populations." 


Hawkeye said...

Poisoning! Why are there no fish to feed these birds and all the other birds falling dead out of the sky? Falling dead out of the sky. Gee, the sky is where all the geoengineering spray is put. The sky is where all the microwave radiation frequencies conduct. The sky is where the highest levels of solar radiation and nuclear radiation are.
The oceans are where all that sky stuff falls to. The oceans are where all the nuclear waste leaking for decades is. The oceans in the arctic region are where massive geoengineering is being done.
Poisoning. My comments are very consistant.
Without birds, insects, wildlife, plants, trees......humans die. But first, people are poisoned. Before the birds fall out of the sky dead, first they are poisoned then starvation comes. The news is infamous for leaving essential parts out of their reports.
Thanks for highlighting these events Gary, because these news reports do not reach our nightly msm news screens ever! Never! People are clueless to the massive die offs that are going on daily, annually and for much too long now.

sophie Hockenberry said...

If Biden becomes president we won't have to worry about any of this.First the stock market will crash,our money will be useless,then after they open the southern border to whoever and whatever wants to come across,we will have no food because we don't have enough now ,most of our store shelves are empty,add another million people to that.Crime will soar and they will take away our guns so we will have no protection against criminals.It will be like Venezuela here.Vote the bible.