Climate Corner: "The Blob" Responsible for 2014–2015 Increase in Sea Lion Pup Deaths

August 2017 - A PLOS One paper published in June supports the hypothesis that unusually warm ocean conditions in 2014 and 2015, (aka “The Blob”), were responsible for the high numbers of malnourished and dead California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) pups seen during those years. The study looked at how changes in sea lion prey distribution in response to higher water temperatures in turn affected the pups’ body condition, nutritional status, and immune responses. While they found that the pups were undernourished and had weaker immune systems, what long-term effects that will have on the health of those pups that did survive is unknown. As climate change continues to affect ocean conditions, understanding how these events in turn affect important indicators of marine ecosystem health such as sea lions is increasingly important.

A related article that summarizes these findings also cites the effects "The Blob" had on sea birds, kelp forests, abalone, crabs, and even an increase in whale entanglements as the animals came closer to shore to feed.