The Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute, which serves Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, has been overwhelmed with an influx of sick or deceased marine mammals with domoic acid poisoning during the past two weeks.

The harmful algal bloom event has been affecting sea animals in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties since May 21, with CIMWI then receiving about one report of a domoic acid-affected animal per day, but the situation worsened on June 8, 2023.

The institute reported receiving 250 to 350 reports per day, and as of Tuesday, CIMWI has responded to more than 300 live sea lions showing signs of domoic acid and more than 100 dead sea lions.

It also has responded to more than 20 strandings of live dolphins, which can succumb to the neurotoxin quickly, and the death toll for dolphins locally is up to 100.

If we thought last year’s domoic acid event affecting Santa Barbara and Ventura was tragic. This year’s event is even more horrific. The number of live and dead stranded marine mammals suspected of having domoic acid rises by the hour.

According to CIMWI, domoic acid is a neurotoxin produced by Pseudo-nitzschia, a microscopic marine algae.

This phytoplankton grows when our coastal ecosystem provides favorable conditions, such as when up-welling of water causes the nutrients from deeper water to rise to the surface where sunlight is present which proliferates algal growth.

This typically occurs during transitional periods in the spring and fall.

The toxic algae does not affect filter-feeders — such as small fish, shellfish and bivalves — who consume it, but predators such as sea lions and sea birds who eat these filter-feeders are negatively impacted by the toxin accumulated in the prey.

As these predators consume larger amounts of prey, they ingest a higher level of domoic acid. California sea lions are most frequently exposed to domoic acid because of their habitats and the location of their foraging sites.

Signs and symptoms of domoic acid poisoning in sea lions include lethargy, disorientation, head bobbing or weaving, foaming at the mouth, unresponsiveness, vomiting, seizures, inability to move, eyes twitching or bulging, and even death.

According to CIMWI, symptoms typically subside within 72 hours as the toxin is eliminated in urine, and in many cases these sea lions can recover and successfully forage in the wild.

However, the degree of domoic acid impact depends on the amount of contaminated fish the sea lion consumes, as consuming too much can result in death.

Depending on the size and condition of the animal, as well as the location, level of skill needed, rescue equipment and transport requirements, rescue teams can consist of one to six volunteers.!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/noctiluca-scintillans-red-tide.jpg?w=696&ssl=1

The rescued animals then receive immediate treatment of aggressive fluid therapy to flush out the toxin, anti-seizure medication if needed, anti-inflammatory to decrease brain swelling from the neurotoxin, and feeding them with fish not contaminated with the domoic acid toxin.

This is a very physical effort, and with domoic acid, there is an added emotional component on the part of the public and our compassionate volunteers. The harmful algal bloom events have occurred in Southern California in 2002, 2006, 2007, 2017 and 2022.

Animals in distress can also be reported on CIMWI’s online report form on its website at, where they can even include photos of the animal. CIMWI said that is its preferred method for reporting animals in distress.

The Tribune / ABC Flash Point Nature News 2023.

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27-06-23 04:37

With thanks to the agricultural sector that poison s our river systems and ocean with pesticides, while using migrant slave labor to profit from?

27-06-23 12:04

In the name of development?