“We’re getting vision of this landscape scale collapse for the first time … arguably it’s a little bit worse than we expected because of the extent of the barreness and the distribution so far out to sea,” Frankham told Breakfast.
But as rising ocean temperatures threaten to make fishery closures routine, it will be even harder to count on crab for holiday meals—or livelihoods. Over the past decade, warming sea waters have produced harmful algal blooms that contaminate crab meat with domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can cause seizures, memory loss and other serious symptoms and has been blamed for poisoning and stranding scores of sea lions in California every year. State officials delayed three out of the last six crab seasons to protect public health after an unprecedented multiyear marine heat wave, dubbed “the blob,” hit the north Pacific Ocean in 2013.
“The Southern Ocean is one of the most important yet least explored and understood regions of the planet when it comes to determining how global warming may affect the future of humanity, thanks to its capacity to absorb huge quantities of heat and carbon dioxide, and melt swaths of the Antarctic ice sheet.”
More than 90% of the heat trapped by carbon emissions is absorbed by the oceans, making their warmth an undeniable signal of the accelerating crisis. The researchers found the five hottest years in the oceans had occurred since 2015, and that the rate of heating since 1986 was eight times higher than that from 1960-85.
The phenomenon of a patch of abnormally warm water off the west coast of North America gained notoriety in 2014, when the first such “Blob” was spotted and given that name, after the horror movie creature that devoured everything in its path. That first Blob lasted years, from 2013 to 2016. It has been blamed for slicing some forage fish populations in half; starving seabirds; triggering a collapse in cod; shifting tuna as far north as Alaska; pushing whales into the path of crab fishing lines and ships; and allowing exotics, including glowing tropical sea pickles, to arrive in northern waters.
Scientists from a local nature reserve who examined the waters of the bay said 95% of sea life to the depth of 10 to 15 meters was dead.
“…many sedentary marine species — including snails, worms, and mussels — are actually being transported in the wrong direction”.
“We know marine heatwaves are on the rise globally, but policymakers, fisheries experts, aquaculture industries and ecologists need to know how this will play out at regional levels, especially in terms of where they will occur and how much hotter they will be,” said lead author from the ARC Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes Dr. Hakase Hayashida.
“The overall big picture here is that surface water carbon dioxide levels are indeed increasing in the Gulf of Mexico (except in the central Gulf) and human activities are contributing to this acidification,” says Shamberger. “Also, coastal acidification is occurring faster than open ocean acidification, which is especially troubling for coastal coral reef and shellfish ecosystems that support many important fisheries species.”