Wednesday, September 26 , 2018, 6:13 am | Overcast 60º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Domoic Acid Poisonings Subside After Hundreds of Birds, Marine Mammals Die

Experts say proliferation of the neurotoxin isn’t rare, though the event is unusual this time of year

Many of the sea birds and marine mammals commonly seen along Santa Barbara’s coastline, including sea lions, were discovered dead or emaciated in recent months due to domoic acid poisoning, caused by a neurotoxin from algae. Click to view larger
Many of the sea birds and marine mammals commonly seen along Santa Barbara’s coastline, including sea lions, were discovered dead or emaciated in recent months due to domoic acid poisoning, caused by a neurotoxin from algae.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

After a couple months of frightening die-offs, the number of domoic acid poisonings of local marine mammals and coastal birds is subsiding, wildlife experts say.

Starting in April, pelicans, loons, sea lions and other species in the Ventura and Santa Barbara counties suffered from domoic acid poisoning, caused by a neurotoxin generated by algae.

Since Jan. 1, 80 pelicans have gone through the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, said the organization’s director of animal care, Julia Parker. Of those, 48 died or had to be put to sleep.

The sicknesses were exacerbated by pelicans’ breeding this year, which meant juveniles as well as adults were turning up dead or emaciated.

Loons, another type of aquatic bird, were hugely affected as well, she said, with hundreds discovered dead along local coasts.

The Wildlife Care Network is not equipped to rehabilitate marine animals, like sea lions, though that species also suffered, Parker said.

The event appears to be tapering off, however. Whereas May saw 52 pelicans taken in for help, June has had 3 so far, Parker said.

Earlier this week, the Wildlife Care Network released six pelicans back into the wild near western Goleta’s Bacara Resort & Spa, with more to be released soon.

Parker said the proliferation of domoic acid isn’t a rare occurrence — in fact, it happens a few times per year — but noted that this time of year is unusual. 

An algal bloom in late 2015 caused the temporary closure of commercial rock and Dungeness crab fisheries in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties due to increased domoic acid in the animals.

Crab fishing around the Channel Islands remained closed into 2016 before the crustaceans were deemed safe to harvest again.

Fish and other critters that eat the algae typically don’t consume enough of the neurotoxin to be notably affected. But when other animals eat the fish and the poison accumulates up the food chain, its effects are compounded.

The Wildlife Care Network encourages people who see an animal that appears hurt or sick to call its organization at 805.681.1080.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >