Friday, August 23, 2013

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: Most "Unusual Mortality Event - U.S. Dolphin Deaths Rise To 300; Cause Still A Mystery?!

August 23, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The spike in bottlenose dolphin deaths this summer is showing no signs of stopping: Nearly 300 of the marine mammals have died along the East Coast as of August 20, according to the federal government.

Trained responders examine a dead male dolphin on Ocean View Beach in Norfolk, Virginia, on August 1.
Photograph by Dorothy Edwards

The high death toll, covering an area that stretches from New York to Virginia, has been labeled an "unusual mortality event," and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has experts scrambling to figure out what's going on.

Based on the rapid increase in dead bodies washing ashore, and the broad geographic reach, "an infectious pathogen is at the top of the list of potential causes," according to NOAA's website.

"We realize that people are very concerned and anxious to learn what we know about the dolphin deaths that have been occurring along the mid-Atlantic coast over the past few weeks," Maggie Mooney-Seus, a spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, told National Geographic by email.

Experts have collected quite a bit of information from various animals' blood and tissue samples, which they're testing for a variety of toxins, biotoxins, bacteria, fungi, and viruses, she said.

Several of the dead dolphins have tested positive for morbillivirus, a measles-like, airborne virus that's often fatal in dolphins. A morbillivirus epidemic hit East Coast bottlenose dolphins in 1987 and 1988, wiping out at least 900 animals and striking a major blow to that population of migratory mammals. However, there's no definitive cause yet, and some of the tests take weeks to complete, Mooney-Seus noted.

"We share the public's desire to get answers to what is causing this and are working as quickly as we can to get those answers."

Determining a Cause of Death

The spike follows a general trend in unusual mortality events that have occurred in recent decades in the United States.

In the northern Gulf of Mexico, for instance, where there's an ongoing unusual mortality event, over a thousand dolphins and whales have washed up dead since February 2010.  

The "concern is we're doing more and more to protect dolphins from harm, yet dolphin strandings are on the rise," Matthew Huelsenbeck, a marine scientist at the nonprofit Oceana, said earlier this month.
"No one seems to have a solid grasp as to what's going on."

But many are working to find out. For example, NOAA has a stranding network of experts who report and collect the corpses of recently deceased dolphins in an effort to determine causes of death.

A corpse is first taken into the lab for evaluation and basic triage to see if it has any visible marks that may point to the cause of its demise. Next, a tissue sample is taken and tested for viruses, which could identify a direct cause.

Then there's a longer-term investigation that involves testing blubber and organs, such as kidneys, for traces of heavy metals. Studies have shown that stranded dolphins have heavy metals in their systems.

"Dolphins are some of the most toxic animals on the planet, and it makes their immune system compromised because they're carrying so many heavy metals and toxins that accumulate in the food web," noted Huelsenbeck.

He also noted that the dead bodies that wash ashore are only a small percentage of the actual death toll. For instance, many dolphin corpses decompose at sea or are eaten by predators.

"For a lot of these animals," he said, "their story will never be told." - National Geographic.

MASS BEES DIE-OFF: Thousands Of Bees Found Dead Near Hives In Cottage Grove, Oregon?!

August 23, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Last Monday, Cottage Grove’s Francis Rothauge checked on the bees in the four hives behind his home in town and found that all was as it should be.

  Jon Stinnett Francis Rothauge displays some of the bees that have recently perished from three of his four hives
(Note the dead bees piled beneath the adjacent hives.)

By Tuesday morning, however, everything had changed.

On his next visit to the hives, Rothauge found dead and dying honeybees littering the ground below three of them.

Early on, he kept count of the dead bees he found there, but by mid-week, the number of casualties surpassed an easy tally, and Rothauge had yet to collect the bees that lay dying below the hives.

As yet, there has of yet been no easy answer as to what may have happened to the bees, though Rothauge and others have their suspicions. - Cottage Grove Sentinel.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Thousands Of Dead Fish Found In A Lake In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia?!

August 23, 2013 - MALAYSIA - The recent discovery of dead fish at the scenic Ampang Hilir Lake Garden has raised concerns among park goers and residents in the area.

The fish were first discovered by a group of park goers on the second week of the fasting month. They said the unbearable stench had forced them to abandoned their visits there.

This was not the first such incident at the lake as there had been similar incidents, dating back to 2009. A Streets check found that the edge of the lake covered with algae and garbage. There was also a strong stench coming from the lake. However, we saw no dead fish as they had been cleared away.

A jogger, who wanted to be known only as Din, said that City Hall should be more proactive in carrying out maintenance at the lake.

"Many people frequent the lake daily. City Hall should ensure that the place is well kept," he said.

A City Hall worker, who declined to be named, said that the dead fish were cleared away after the supervisor of the park was informed of the matter.

"It took four days for the workers to clear all the dead fish. They had to go around the lake in a small boat to collect all the rotting fish," he said.

The worker also said that there had been numerous complaints from park goers about the foul smell of rotting fish.

"We can only dispose of the fish and hope that the smell will eventually go away," he said.

Former American Chamber of Commerce president Nicholas S. Zefferys wrote a letter to the New Straits Times recently about how the lake, an abandoned tin mine, was subsequently filled with water and seeded with fish.

"City Hall had built a delightful walkway and facilities for residents and trekkers.

"Today, this lake is cesspool of hundreds of dead fish floating on the surface amid a thick film of sewage, decay and rot.

"The stench is so bad we have discontinued our walks there, as our clothes became infused with the odour. No one walks there now except the hardy or indifferent," he wrote.

A spokesman for City Hall said that the dry season was killing the fish.

"There are 10 inlets which are connected to the lake and one outlet that channels the water out of the lake. During the dry season, the water level subsides causing the level to drop below the outlet.

When this happens the water cannot be channelled out and as a result, the lake begins to collect garbage and contaminated water," he said.

The spokesman said that City Hall will be monitoring the lake garden. "We have already engaged a contractor to clean up the lake and start water treatment. As a long-term measure, we will be building a reservoir to treat the water that is channelled into the lake," he said. - NST.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Hundreds Of Dead Fish Found In Agoura Hills Lake, California?!

August 23, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A massive cleanup was underway at Lake Lindero in Agoura Hills after hundreds of dead fish turned up in its waters -- at least 200 fish were seen belly-up drifing toward concrete banks.

A massive clean-up is underway in Agoura Hills after hundreds of dead fish turned up in a nearby lake.
Residents reported seeing the fish in Lake Lindero just off the 101 Freeway
and just south of Lindero Country Club. 

In the past several days, something has been taking a chunk out of the lake’s fish population, including carp.

Residents sent NBC4 photos of the "fish kill" that they began noticing on Sunday.

"It can’t be healthy for kids around here. Can’t be healthy for adults," said Mark Odney, a Lake Lindero resident.

"Golf Projects Lindero" is the company that operates the lake’s country club. Its president, David V. Smith told residents they are not to panic.

"I would just ask homeowners to understand that this is something we are trying to address," he said.

WATCH: Hundreds of Dead Fish Surface in Agoura Hills Lake.

Smith added that the kill is an unfortunate consequence of a dredging project earlier this year. If 5,000 yards of silt are pulled out of the lake, it kicks up nutrients from the bottom, he said. And, if hot weather is added to that, it results in an algae bloom.

"When algae blooms, then of course, it sucks oxygen out of the lake," Smith said.

The fish went lifeless after suffocating in the oxygen-depleted water. The solution is to kill the algae slowly with chemicals, but that may take a few weeks.

"It’s turned into a cesspool," Odney said.

Angry residents said they are "raising a stink" over the issue because they just can’t stand the stench of the dead fish.

Meantime, the lake's management company told NBC4 that it can’t kill all of the algae at once because that would kill more fish than it would save. - NBC Los Angeles.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Mini-Earthquake Swarm Continues Near Mount St. Helens - Geologists Says Not Directly Related To Nearby Volcano!

August 23, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Three earthquakes rattled an area northwest of Mount St. Helens on Friday, continuing what geologists say is a mini-swarm of earthquakes not related to the nearby volcano.

U.S. Geological Survey map shows location of the three quakes.

The latest quakes, on Friday, were a 3.7-magnitude quake at 2:38 p.m. Friday, followed by a 3.4 at 6:08 and a 3.1 at 6:12 p.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

A report from the USGS on Friday said the quakes have been centered about 13 miles northwest of Mount St. Helens at a depth of about 8 miles. They were described as tectonic in origin and not directly related to the volcano.

The report said such earthquakes are common in areas around Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood. It said another mini-swarm of earthquakes also occurred about six miles southwest of Mount Hood.

Volcano-related seismic activity at the two volcanoes themselves were at normal background levels, the USGS said. - The Columbian.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Partial Dome Collapse At Guatemala's Santiaguito Volcano Generates Strong Explosion And Pyroclastic Flows!

August 23, 2013 - GUATEMALA - A major eruption occurred yesterday evening. Starting at 17:45 (local time), the top part of the Caliente lava dome collapsed and produced a series of relatively large pyroclastic flows and explosions.

Yesterday's eruption of Santiaguito (webcam image: INSIVUMEH, annotated by Blog Culture Volcan)

Ash plumes rose more than 2 km to elevations of 4 km altitude.

The cause of the eruption was likely the accumulation of pressurized magma and gas under the dome composed of viscous (solid) lava.

The pyroclastic flows affected mainly the south, southeast and NNE sides. Bombs from explosive activity were ejected to distances of 500 m. - Volcano Discovery.