Subject: BIOLOGISTS BLAME SICKLY FUR SEALS ON EL NINO (fwd)

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Fri, 14 Nov 1997 11:02:10 -0500 (EST)

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 1997 23:41:36 -0500
From: Terry Hardie <terry@orcas.net>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
     <MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA>
To: MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA
Subject: BIOLOGISTS BLAME SICKLY FUR SEALS ON EL NINO

13-Nov-97 03:35 pm Regular  International

BIOLOGISTS BLAME SICKLY FUR SEALS ON EL NINO


   San Francisco, Nov 12 Reuters - Marine biologists on Wednesday
blamed the El Nino weather phenomenon for causing an unusually high
number of dying seals to wash up on California beaches in recent
weeks.
   The Marine Mammal Centre, a non-profit animal welfare group based
in the rugged Marin Headlands north of San Francisco, said it had
responded to 21 reports of stranded northern fur seals over the last
month. On average, the centre responds to no more than five such
calls a year.
   Susan Andres, a spokeswoman for the centre, said most of the
stranded seals were severely underweight, dehydrated and near death.
All were aged between three and six months -- a vulnerable age when
the pups are weaned from their mothers.
   Andres said seals were stranding themselves because El Nino, the
warm-water phenomenon brewing in the Pacific Ocean, had reduced food
supplies in their normal habitats, forcing the pups' mothers to
venture further afield in search of food.
   ``We think they didn't receive enough nourishment from their
mothers, (who) are spending too much time looking for food and not
enough time nursing their pups,'' Andres said.
   The presence of northern fur seals on the California mainland is
highly unusual because the species normally stays off the
continental shelf, preferring to live on and around offshore
islands, Andres said.
   The term ``northern'' distinguishes the seals from another
species, the guadalupe fur seal, which live further to the south on
Guadalupe island about 193km west of Baja California in Mexico.
   She said researchers think the young seals have approached the
shore either to look for food or because they have become too weak
to navigate correctly.
   So far, only eight of the 21 seals found stranded in the last
month have survived. The centre hopes to rehabilitate the animals
over the next three months and release them by boat near established
seal colonies.
   When the presence of El Nino was last felt off the California
coast in 1992, the centre responded to 22 northern fur seal rescue
calls. Of those, only 11 survived.


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