SF Chronicle: “Unbelievable hordes” of fish near California coast; Most birds, sea lions, dolphins, whales anywhere — Expert: ‘Off the charts’ pelican population “highly unusual… could reflect breeding failures elsewhere”; “Abnormal ocean conditions” to blame?
May 1st, 2014
San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 26, 2014: In the past year, Monterey Bay has become the richest marine region on the Pacific Coast. In the past three weeks, it has reached a new peak with unbelievable hordes of anchovies, along with other baitfish, and with it, the highest numbers of salmon, marine birds, sea lions, gray whales, humpback whales and orcas anywhere. The bay ignited with life [...] upwelling in the underwater canyon and jump-started the marine food chain. [...] A week ago Monday, the humpbacks and killer whales arrived. Tony Lorenz on the Sea Wolf sent me an alert, that he saw 50 humpback whales [...] A school of Pacific white-sided dolphin, numbering over a thousand, has also been sighted [...] the orcas found a mother gray whale with a calf [...] dragged the baby whale below the surface and drowned it [...] In the past few days, Lorenz reported another attack, where the orcas dragged a carcass of a baby whale around for hours, and then when a sea lion showed up to see what was going on, it got nailed, too.
Point Reyes Light, May 1, 2014: Large schools of baitfish off the coast of Point Reyes, presenting a feast for birds and sea mammals and a strange sight for locals [...] An avian ecologist with Petaluma-based Point Blue said that “off the charts” numbers of pelicans in the area last month might also point to abnormal ocean conditions and a coming El Niño [...] Bolinas resident Burr Heneman wrote [...] he had only seen such a massive baitfish [sardines] event in Bolinas a few times in the past 40 years, and never in the spring—only in July or August, and only with anchovies. [...] Large sardines [...] might not typically reach this area until June, said Russ Vetter, a senior scientist at NOAA [...] Reports early this year described a decline of the sardine fishery off the southern California coast [...] crews reportedly struggled to find sardines and typically picked up larger and more mature ones when they caught any at all. Sardines don’t typically come so close to the coast when they pass through the area because of the inhospitable cold waters [...] upwelling began in March—within the normal range [...] avian ecologist with Point Blue, Dave Shuford, wrote to the Light that the number of pelicans seen at Bolinas Lagoon was highly unusual for this time of year. That could reflect breeding failures elsewhere, he said [...]
Dave Shuford, avian ecologist: “Although occurrence of pelicans in the (hundreds) is not unprecedented in the Point Reyes area in April, the numbers seen the other day appear to be [...] about 2,600 pelicans at Bolinas Lagoon on Sunday, which is off charts, I think, for April.”