Marine Animals Found on California Beaches with Signs of Domoic Acid Poisoning

Marine Animals Found on California Beaches with Signs of Domoic Acid Poisoning

Dozens of marine animals in California are being found on beaches with signs of poisoning. The animals appear disoriented and agitated, with their heads bobbing and their mouths foaming.

Officials first became concerned in mid-August when sea lions, mostly adult females, were appearing on the southern California coast with signs of poisoning.

“We are responding to 50-100 calls a day,” the Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute wrote on an Instagram post.

Experts quickly discovered that it was from domoic acid poisoning. Domoic acid is a naturally occurring neurotoxin that is produced by single-celled marine algae. The neurotoxin accumulates in crustaceans, small fish, and squid, which then transfers to predators that eat them, like sea lions. Although the animals usually can recover after passing the acid through their urine, over 60 sea lions have been stranded in the last few weeks, with one even dying after suffering a seizure on a crowded beach.

Scientists are trying to figure out why this alga bloom specifically is wreaking so much havoc. They are considering if warming oceans could play a factor. Although these blooms are common in California during spring/summer, it is rare to be having one so late in the year, The Guardian reported.

This is not only a huge concern for marine animals and ecosystems, but it is also a public health concern. The acid can be transferred from animals to humans who eat toxic seafood. Eating this can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, and dizziness. Even more frightening, it is nearly impossible for crustaceans, fish, and shellfish to show any symptoms of being toxic.

The algae blooms pose a huge threat to sea life. Algae bloom in Florida caused a terrifying amount of manatees and dolphins to die. Although some say that these blooms are not harmful to humans, studies have found that the toxins from algae blooms can become airborne.

This article by Hailey Kanowsky was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 5 September 2022. Lead Image Source : Foto 4440/Shutterstock.

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