The Blob — Brewing up Neurotoxins

Headlines all over this week about the warming ocean and the postponement of west coast crab season. A toxin in algae –domoic acid– has grown so fast, and deep that traces are being found in crab, shellfish, sardines and anchovies — and the critters that eat them, including humans.

The poisonous algae, multiplying since April, is now estimated to be 40 miles wide, in some places reaching down as far as two football fields, marine biologists say. It is the biggest and most toxic bloom researchers have ever seen.  SF Chronicle

As the NY Times put it the Pacific Ocean has become a caldron.  A 4 to 6 degree rise in seawater temperatures in large areas, some have dubbed “the blob,’ is having effects not seen in human history.

“The Blob” has been associated, among other effects, with the unusually dry and warm weather in the western United States. Out in the ocean, the nutrient-poor warmer waters of the Blob — about four degrees Fahrenheit higher than average — are disrupting the food web of marine life. Some species of fish are showing up where they are not expected, including tropical sunfish off the Alaska coast, and an unusual number of emaciated sea lion pups and Guadalupe fur seals are being found stranded on California shores.

Climate The Blob

Of course the Atlantic ocean has problems as well — and much the same. The cod populations off the coast of Maine are in serious decline — because of rising ocean temperatures.

Cod populations off New England are collapsing because waters [temperatures] of the Gulf of Maine have been rising 99 percent faster than anywhere else in the world since 2004, researchers say. Earthweek and National Geographic.

We could also go to the Indian Ocean / Gulf of Aden, where Tropical Cyclone Chapala hit Yemen, dumping ten years worth of rain during its passage, and bringing a storm surge into the coastal city, Mukalla, laying waste to large parts of the waterfront. First time in recorded history such a storm has landed here.  Earthweek.


Record Sea Temperatures in Japan: Fish Flee

From the indispensable EarthWeek

Sea temperatures around Japan during August reached the warmest levels ever recorded since reliable measurements began 25 years ago.

Fish are believed to have fled the heat. The average sea-surface temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit followed the hottest summer since 1898 across the country.

Thousands of people have been taken to hospitals suffering from heatstroke and other heat-related ailments.

Japanese fishermen say they have been hard-pressed to find their usual catches of Pacific sauries, which have dropped 80 percent in numbers since last summer.

Pacific saury, known as sanma in Japan, usually swim about 3 feet below the surface, according to Akihiko Yatsu, a senior researcher at the National Research Institute of Fisheries Science.

He told the Yomiuri Shimbun that unlike other fish, sanma cannot dive to reach cooler water, so they must swim elsewhere.

The Japan Times, and The Daily Yomiuri also reports on this