Falling Oxygen Levels Fueled by Climate Change Create Dangerous Conditions for Ocean Life

Climate change is at the root of an alarming explanation for why strange animal phenomena like seeing a sea lion cruising on a kayak — or, worse, washing up sick or starved on the beach — are happening with greater frequency.

Experts have cited unusually warm waters in the West Coast as a catalyst for four times as many sea lion pups washing up on the brink of life this year as the mothers have to travel increasing distances to find food for them. 

As many as 1,450 sea lions have washed up on California beaches in 2015 and about half have died naturally or been euthanized, according to the New York Times.

Now some scientists are taking a closer look at rapidly declining oxygen levels in oceans that create dangerous, life-threatening conditions for fish and other creatures that sea lions consume. In California, this has meant a huge free-fall in populations of important bottom feeder fish like viperfish, hatchetfish, dragonfish and lampfish, according to National Geographic.

"I think we are changing the world; I just don't think the responses are going to be as predictable as we think,” Francisco Chavez, senior scientist with California's Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, told the publication. "I think there are a slew of surprises ahead."

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us