National Geographic : 2016 Sep
HEAT WAVE 69 Anchovies, already dwindling, seemed to van- ish almost everywhere except Monterey Bay, where they gathered in great numbers, creating a weird feeding frenzy. At one point, 50 or more whales dined in the bay at once. In the Pacific Northwest humpbacks cruised into the Co- lumbia River in search of food. Birds suffered too. At least a hundred thousand blue-footed Cassin’s auklets, small gray-feathered island nesters that eat krill, starved to death. It was one of the biggest die-offs of birds in U.S. histo- ry. Then, months later, hundreds of thousands of common murres died too. Perhaps most visible were the skinny, sick sea lion pups that surfed ashore in California, loose fur drooping over bones, looking like children wrapped in parents’ clothes. They collapsed under porches and parked trucks. One curled into a chair on a hotel patio. Anoth- er slipped into a booth at a seaside restaurant. Without sardines or anchovies, their mothers ate junk-food diets of squid, hake, and rockfish, and weaned pups early. More than 3,000 were stranded in five months. Chugging back to his office in Newport, Ore- gon, Peterson is baffled. After a lifetime study- ing the sea, he finds this warm ocean unfamiliar and disorienting, “like looking out the window and seeing a macaw fly by.” IT’S NOT THAT THE BLOB is the new normal. It isn’t. Few if any of these changes are perma- nent. Even if they were, it wouldn’t mean the sea was dying. Ocean life will continue. But the blob offers something of an analogue for future seas under climate change. And marine life in this sea of tomorrow will look very different. Warmer temperatures speed fish metabo- lisms, requiring them to eat more, just as their food declines. Some fish may see tinier bodies, more disease, and, in many cases, falling pop- ulations, according to recent studies. Already, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, many fish and plankton are Dead pelagic red crabs, also known as tuna crabs, crowd the sea surface near Monterey Bay. These crabs appeared in unusually high numbers in 2015, frequently washing ashore and coating California coastlines.