Starving sea lion pups and seabirds up and down the West Coast this year may be part of a large-scale shift of the Pacific Ocean to warmer and less productive conditions, according to a new federal fisheries report.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration presented the findings on the warming Pacific in an annual report on the state of the waters off California.
"We are in some ways entering a situation we haven't seen before," Cisco Werner, director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, said in a statement from NOAA. The situation demands that scientists consider the impact on ocean life as a whole, Werner said.
From 2014, waters off Southern California and the Gulf of Alaska turned significantly warmer than usual. The so-called "warm blobs" have grown to cover most of the West Coast, making for record-high water temperatures.
Tiny, energy-rich organisms that support the West Coast food chain have suffered in the warming water, the report said. Discoveries of large numbers of emaciated young sea lions off California and starving seabirds off Oregon and Washington may reflect dwindling nourishment overall as the Pacific warms, the study said.