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Re: [CALBIRDS] Dead cormorants and red tide?

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  • 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 1 of 2 , Apr 30, 2007
      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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