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Dead cormorants and red tide?

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  • kwpenland
    I found two dead cormorants today, one just south of Pt. Mugu on one of the dirt pullouts, another in the middle of PCH even further south. I ve heard on the
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 27, 2007
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      I found two dead cormorants today, one just south of Pt. Mugu on one
      of the dirt pullouts, another in the middle of PCH even further south.
      I've heard on the radio about an especially toxic red tide "along the
      California coast" and that one woman has found 75 dead birds, but no
      further details were given. Anybody have any more info on this situation?

      OT, but today was the third southern sea otter I've seen in the past
      week: One at Pt. Mugu, one south of Sycamore Cove, and a few days ago
      one was off Pt. Vicente! Since when did these guys start coming so
      far south of Pt. Conception? :-)

      Katy Penland
      Los Angeles, CA
    • Steve Hampton
      In answer to your question, here is a press release from the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). http://www.ibrrc.org/pr_04_25_2007.html April
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 30, 2007
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        In answer to your question, here is a press release from the International Bird Rescue Research Center
        (IBRRC).
        http://www.ibrrc.org/pr_04_25_2007.html

        April 25, 2007

        San Pedro, CA

        Crisis off our coast

        Deadly domoic acid killing record numbers of animals in Southern
        California

        It’s happened with predictable regularity, every spring since International
        Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) opened its center in San Pedro in 2001.
        The staff at the center, which specializes in seabirds, and especially
        California brown pelicans, calls it DA; short for Domoic Acid. The staff
        braces for the dead and dying birds they know will come, every spring.

        This spring is different. It’s much worse, affecting more species of
        birds, pinepeds and possibly even whales. Beaches are littered with dead
        birds, seals, dolphins, otters, and in Santa Barbara a 29 foot sperm whale
        washed ashore. The reasons for the deaths are not entirely certain,
        however, many of the animals tested were positive for domoic acid
        poisoning.


        Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s director has many questions, but not enough answers.
        “I have been doing this work for 35 years and I have never seen anything
        like this as far as the number of species affected, other than an oil
        spill,” Holcomb said. “We have very serious concerns about what is
        happening to seabirds, and how it may affect populations, especially
        California brown pelicans, who are heading into breeding season. The loss
        of breeding adults at this time may impact the next generation as well,”
        Holcomb said. (California brown pelicans are still on the Endangered
        Species List, but have been petitioned for de-listing).


        Pelicans with domoic acid poisoning, which affects the brain, can have
        seizures while flying, causing them to literally fall from the sky. Some
        have crashed into car windshields or ended up in places they shouldn’t be,
        like airport runways and freeways. Holcomb believes many seabirds having
        seizures out at sea drown, making it virtually impossible to count the
        bodies.


        Although domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin produced by
        microscopic algae, something is making recent blooms of the algae
        especially virulent. IBRRC is working closely with the Caron Laboratory at
        USC, providing body fluids from suspect birds for analysis. Professor
        Dave Caron and Assistant Research Professor Astrid Schnetzer test the
        waters off Southern California and alert the center when domoic acid is
        present. The staff then braces and prepares the ICU. The only way to save
        the birds is to flush the toxins out of their systems, a labor intensive
        process.

        This spring dead birds began littering beaches in March. IBRRC rescue
        personnel walking the beaches reported “dead birds everywhere.” Species
        included grebes, gulls, cormorants, American avocets and loons. Not all
        test positive for DA. But other neurotoxins such as saxitoxin which can
        cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans, are also being examined by
        Dave Caron and Astrid Schnetzer. They are studying the birds with the help
        of IBRRC staff who provide fresh blood and body fluids of all sick birds.
        Long-time volunteer, Susan Kaveggia, orchestrates the sampling and has
        been instrumental in forging the relationship with USC.

        The Marine Mammal Care Center, which is next door to IBRRC in Fort
        MacArthur, has been overwhelmed with sick seals and sea lions who eat the
        same fish as pelicans; anchovies and sardines. The fish eat the affected
        algae, which don’t kill them, but the animals that eat the fish get
        concentrated amounts, depending on how many affected fish they eat.
        Whether they live or die depends how much of the poison they ingest. Many
        of these sick animals have been tested by Caron and Schnetzer. More than
        half of those tested have been positive for DA over the past few days.


        Humans have died from eating contaminated mussels. Many times people don’t
        know what made them sick so they don’t report it to health authorities.
        In humans, domoic acid poisoning can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea,
        abdominal cramps, headache, dizziness, confusion, disorientation, loss of
        short-term memory, motor weakness, seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, coma and
        possibly death. Short term memory loss is permanent, thus the name Amnesic
        Shellfish Poisoning. Birds and pinepeds exhibit similar symptoms. Because
        the toxin affects the brain, the long term effects of DA poisoning aren’t
        known, something that concerns Holcomb.


        “In my opinion, domoic acid is the new DDT,” Holcomb said. “If the effects
        of DA poisoning are cumulative in the brain, and we don’t know that yet,
        it could have serious consequences on the population of California Brown
        Pelicans. As of this point, we just don’t know.”




        Steve Hampton
        ________________
        Resource Economist
        Office of Spill Prevention and Response
        California Dept of Fish and Game
        PO Box 944209
        Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
        -----------------------------------
        (916) 323-4724 phone
        (916) 324-8829 fax

        >>> "kwpenland" <kwpenland@...> 4/27/2007 9:51 PM >>>
        I found two dead cormorants today, one just south of Pt. Mugu on one
        of the dirt pullouts, another in the middle of PCH even further south.
        I've heard on the radio about an especially toxic red tide "along the
        California coast" and that one woman has found 75 dead birds, but no
        further details were given. Anybody have any more info on this situation?

        OT, but today was the third southern sea otter I've seen in the past
        week: One at Pt. Mugu, one south of Sycamore Cove, and a few days ago
        one was off Pt. Vicente! Since when did these guys start coming so
        far south of Pt. Conception? :-)

        Katy Penland
        Los Angeles, CA



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