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News Article | April 22, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

What happens when large storms hit the shore and huge waves sweep away the sea mammals away from their mothers? The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California looks after those marine creatures. The centers aims to advance global ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education. The center has recently seen an increase in orphaned and injured elephant seal pups following heavy storm activity and rough surf, which could have swept the young seals away from their mothers. The center had 100 elephant seals in rehabilitation last year, whereas, this time, it has 113. Read: Which Are The World's Smartest Animals? “With the large storms, these big waves are washing them off their normal beaches, said Marine Mammal Center Director, Dr. Shawn Johnson. “So they’re ending up on public beaches. They need to be rescued and given the proper nutrition to get them back out into the wild as soon as possible," CBS reported. The volunteers at the center are its source of help. The surge in rescued marine mammals is only increasing the need for helping hands. Anyone interested in volunteering to take a shift in the fish kitchen can sign up at the Center's website.  “We are feeding about 700 pounds of fish a day,” said Johnson.  Ice Age Fossils Can Provide Key Insights On Species Loss, Researcher Says


News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

They are shy and elusive. They are tinier than a dolphin. And they are disappearing fast. Despite heroic efforts, vaquita porpoises are dying at astounding rates in illegal fishing nets in their limited habitat in the northwestern corner of the Gulf of California. Last week, two more vaquitas were found dead. Fewer than 30 vaquitas are believed to be alive today, making them the most endangered marine mammal in the world. But there is reason to hope. An unusual, diverse, international coalition of partners called VaquitaCPR and led by the Mexican government has worked feverishly to develop a bold, first-ever emergency plan to rescue the vaquita and place them in a sanctuary until illegal fishing is ended and their habitat is cleared of deadly gillnets. This week, the Mexican government's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) announced a pledge of up to $3 million dollars to help launch the first critical phase of this emergency plan, including construction of a sea pen sanctuary. This is a significant financial commitment, but additional support from the public is vital to ensure the full implementation of this daring effort to recover a population that totaled 600 animals just 20 years ago. "The challenge is staggering," says The Marine Mammal Center's Executive Director Dr. Jeff Boehm, who is leading the coalition's fundraising efforts. "How we respond to this emergency reveals who we are as a society. It sets precedent. We are asking the public to step up and donate what they can today at http://www. to match the Mexican government's generous funding. Additional donations are needed for veterinary care, staffing, and equipment and to ensure the program is not cut short because of lack of funds." The critical need for support from the public to help save the vaquita has been reinforced by a number of celebrities, who are asking their fans to help fund the project, according to Dr. Cynthia Smith, Executive Director of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. The Foundation is one of the primary partners supporting VaquitaCPR. Dr. Smith thanks singer, songwriter, and actress Miley Cyrus, and actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Hemsworth, and Carolyn Hennesy. "Public outreach and awareness is so essential to this project," said Dr. Smith. "When people understand the world is about to lose something dear, they will try to make a difference." The caring, compassion, and concern that prompted the development of the emergency plan to save the vaquita from extinction gained additional support today. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced its members have committed their support through its Save Animals from Extinction (SAFE) program and pledged to raise additional funds for VaquitaCPR. In recent years, significant contributions have enabled efforts that have focused on assessing the population and educating the public about the devastating threat facing the endangered porpoise. The Mexican government has expended more than $100 million to date on these efforts and more. According to Debborah Luke, AZA's Senior Vice President for Conservation & Science, the AZA community has also contributed to vaquita conservation through its innovative SAFE program in the past five years. The illegal gillnets killing vaquita are used to catch another endangered species, the totoaba. The fish's dried swim bladders fetch huge sums of money in China and Hong Kong, where it is believed the bladders help maintain youthful-looking skin. "We are very grateful that both the Mexican government and AZA have pledged support and hope it will inspire others who share our determination to save the vaquita to donate," emphasized Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, lead researcher and head of Mexico's International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA). "Does the public care enough to help save the most endangered marine mammal in the world? I think so. We can't stand by and watch this precious resource disappear. It will be challenging, but we must try." To support the rescue effort, learn more about the vaquita and for information about VaquitaCPR, visit VaquitaCPR.org VaquitaCPR is led by Mexico's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). 'VaquitaCPR' is dedicated to conserving, protecting, and helping this rare porpoise recover. The National Marine Mammal Foundation, The Marine Mammal Center, and the Chicago Zoological Society are primary partners in this extraordinary conservation effort. Key collaborators in Mexico include the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), the Mexican Association of Habitats for the Interaction and Protection of Marine Mammals (AMHMAR), and Acuario Oceanico. Additional United States collaborators are Duke University and the Marine Mammal Commission, with NOAA Fisheries providing technical expertise. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Dolphin Quest, SeaWorld, Vancouver Aquarium, the International Marine Animal Trainer's Association and the Association of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums are offering support and expertise to the program and assisting with fundraising.


News Article | April 7, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

A California sea lion in critical condition was rescued off the coast of Salt Spring Island on Monday. The animal is now under the care of Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. Locals say that it was in distress, lethargic, and just stayed in one place the whole time. "We had several reports of a male sea lion in distress on Salt Spring through the weekend," said Martin Haulena, head veterinarian of Vancouver Aquarium. Looking at the pictures they received, Haulena describes that the animal is in a very poor condition. It is so thin that the ribs and spine can be seen. It also suffered "massive weight loss." Together with the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Haulena helped bring the animal from the coast to Vancouver Aquarium's rescue center to receive medical treatments. They then confirmed that the sea lion is a male, believed to be five to seven years old. Aquarium's staff are currently working to stabilize the animal. He is now being treated with gastric protectants, subcutaneous fluids, and antibiotics. However, it is still uncertain why the sea lion is in trouble. He will stay under observation and will have to undergo further examination. "The animal is in such poor condition that now is not the time to perform potentially stressful medical procedures," said Haulena. He added that it will be hard to target the treatment without diagnostic information. California sea lion, known for its playfulness, intelligence, social behavior and noisy barking, is a common animal found from British Columbia down to the southern part of Baja California. It has a steady growing population of approximately 238,000. Aside from Baja California and British Columbia, California sea lions can also be seen in Monterey, San Francisco, and Galapagos Islands. Sea lions are the most common patients of The Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit veterinary research hospital and educational center devoted to rehabilitate and rescue ill and injured marine mammals. The common reasons why the sea lions are rescued are: toxicity, leptospirosis, pneumonia, cancer, entanglement on fishing gears, gunshots and malnutrition. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


Browning H.M.,University of St. Andrews | Gulland F.M.D.,The Marine Mammal Center | Hammond J.A.,The Pirbright Institute | Colegrove K.M.,University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign | Hall A.J.,University of St. Andrews
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2015

Naturally occurring cancers in non-laboratory species have great potential in helping to decipher the often complex causes of neoplasia. Wild animal models could add substantially to our understanding of carcinogenesis, particularly of genetic and environmental interactions, but they are currently underutilized. Studying neoplasia in wild animals is difficult and especially challenging in marinemammals owing to their inaccessibility, lack of exposure history, and ethical, logistical and legal limits on experimentation. Despite this, California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) offer an opportunity to investigate risk factors for neoplasia development that have implications for terrestrial mammals and humans who share much of their environment and diet. A relatively accessible California sea lion population on the west coast of the USA has a high prevalence of urogenital carcinoma and is regularly sampled during veterinary care in wildlife rehabilitation centres. Collaborative studies have revealed that genotype, persistent organic pollutants and a herpesvirus are all associated with this cancer. This paper reviews research to date on the epidemiology and pathogenesis of urogenital carcinoma in this species, and presents the California sea lion as an important and currently underexploited wild animal model of carcinogenesis. 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


News Article | December 15, 2015
Site: news.yahoo.com

California sea lion Blarney McCresty, that was treated for domoic acid toxicity, is seen during his rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California in this handout released to Reuters on December 14, 2015 courtesy of The Marine Mammal Center. REUTERS/The Marine Mammal Center/Handout via Reuters More WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A toxin produced by marine algae is inflicting brain damage on sea lions along California's coast, causing neurological and behavioral changes that can impair their ability to navigate in the sea and survive in the wild, scientists said on Monday. Brain scans on 30 California sea lions detected damage in the hippocampus, a brain structure associated with memory and spatial navigation, in animals naturally exposed to the toxin known as domoic acid, the researchers said. Domoic acid mimics glutamate, a chemical that transmits nerve impulses in the brain, and leads to over-activation of hippocampus nerve cells and chronic epilepsy, according to Emory University cognitive psychologist Peter Cook, who worked on the study while at the University of California-Santa Cruz. "The behavioral deficits accompanying brain damage with domoic acid are severe, and may negatively impact foraging and navigation in sea lions, driving strandings and mortality," Cook said. Hundreds of sea lions annually are found stranded on California beaches with signs of domoic acid poisoning such as disorientation and seizures. Thousands are thought to be exposed to the toxin. The microscopic algae, called Pseudo-nitzschia, responsible for the toxin occur naturally in coastal waters. Their blooms have become more frequent and severe in recent years. This year's bloom was the largest on record, reaching from Santa Barbara, California to Alaska. Ocean pollution from chemicals like fertilizers and warming ocean temperatures associated with global climate change are believed to contribute to bloom size and frequency. The toxin accumulates in shellfish and small fish that consume algae. Sea lions, other marine mammals and seabirds are exposed to it after eating those shellfish and fish. "Domoic acid-producing blooms have been in the environment for a very long time, but the current pattern of much larger and more frequent blooms causing more visible damage to marine animals has been going on since the 1980s," Cook said. Sea lions exposed to the toxin had greatly reduced connectivity between the hippocampus and the thalamus, a brain structure associated with sensory perception and regulation of motor functions. Those with hippocampus damage also performed worse on memory tasks such as one involving finding a food reward. "Hundreds of sea lions end up in stranding facilities each year. A great many of them do die although some can be rehabilitated and survive for some time in the wild," Cook said. The research was published in the journal Science.


News Article | December 15, 2015
Site: www.reuters.com

A normal California sea lion brain section (L) and California sea lion brain that has been affected by domoic acid exposure (R) with the shrunken hippocampus in the center of the brain section are shown in this undated image courtesy of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito,... California sea lion Blarney McCresty, that was treated for domoic acid toxicity, is seen during his rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California in this handout released to Reuters on December 14, 2015 courtesy of The Marine Mammal Center. Brain scans on 30 California sea lions detected damage in the hippocampus, a brain structure associated with memory and spatial navigation, in animals naturally exposed to the toxin known as domoic acid, the researchers said. Domoic acid mimics glutamate, a chemical that transmits nerve impulses in the brain, and leads to over-activation of hippocampus nerve cells and chronic epilepsy, according to Emory University cognitive psychologist Peter Cook, who worked on the study while at the University of California-Santa Cruz. "The behavioral deficits accompanying brain damage with domoic acid are severe, and may negatively impact foraging and navigation in sea lions, driving strandings and mortality," Cook said. Hundreds of sea lions annually are found stranded on California beaches with signs of domoic acid poisoning such as disorientation and seizures. Thousands are thought to be exposed to the toxin. The microscopic algae, called Pseudo-nitzschia, responsible for the toxin occur naturally in coastal waters. Their blooms have become more frequent and severe in recent years. This year's bloom was the largest on record, reaching from Santa Barbara, California to Alaska. Ocean pollution from chemicals like fertilizers and warming ocean temperatures associated with global climate change are believed to contribute to bloom size and frequency. The toxin accumulates in shellfish and small fish that consume algae. Sea lions, other marine mammals and seabirds are exposed to it after eating those shellfish and fish. "Domoic acid-producing blooms have been in the environment for a very long time, but the current pattern of much larger and more frequent blooms causing more visible damage to marine animals has been going on since the 1980s," Cook said. Sea lions exposed to the toxin had greatly reduced connectivity between the hippocampus and the thalamus, a brain structure associated with sensory perception and regulation of motor functions. Those with hippocampus damage also performed worse on memory tasks such as one involving finding a food reward. "Hundreds of sea lions end up in stranding facilities each year. A great many of them do die although some can be rehabilitated and survive for some time in the wild," Cook said. The research was published in the journal Science.


Buckmaster P.S.,Stanford University | Wen X.,Stanford University | Toyoda I.,Stanford University | Gulland F.M.D.,The Marine Mammal Center | Van Bonn W.,The Marine Mammal Center
Journal of Comparative Neurology | Year: 2014

California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) are abundant human-sized carnivores with large gyrencephalic brains. They develop epilepsy after experiencing status epilepticus when naturally exposed to domoic acid. We tested whether sea lions previously exposed to DA (chronic DA sea lions) display hippocampal neuropathology similar to that of human patients with temporal lobe epilepsy. Hippocampi were obtained from control and chronic DA sea lions. Stereology was used to estimate numbers of Nissl-stained neurons per hippocampus in the granule cell layer, hilus, and pyramidal cell layer of CA3, CA2, and CA1 subfields. Adjacent sections were processed for somatostatin immunoreactivity or Timm-stained, and the extent of mossy fiber sprouting was measured stereologically. Chronic DA sea lions displayed hippocampal neuron loss in patterns and extents similar but not identical to those reported previously for human patients with temporal lobe epilepsy. Similar to human patients, hippocampal sclerosis in sea lions was unilateral in 79% of cases, mossy fiber sprouting was a common neuropathological abnormality, and somatostatin-immunoreactive axons were exuberant in the dentate gyrus despite loss of immunopositive hilar neurons. Thus, hippocampal neuropathology of chronic DA sea lions is similar to that of human patients with temporal lobe epilepsy. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Jacobsen J.K.,Humboldt State University | Massey L.,Pacific Trawl and Supply Company | Gulland F.,The Marine Mammal Center
Marine Pollution Bulletin | Year: 2010

In 2008 two male sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) stranded along the northern California coast with large amounts of fishing net scraps, rope, and other plastic debris in their stomachs. One animal had a ruptured stomach, the other was emaciated, and gastric impaction was suspected as the cause of both deaths. There were 134 different types of nets in these two animals, all made of floating material, varying in size from 10cm2 to about 16m2. The variability in size and age of the pieces suggests the material was ingested from the surface as debris rather than bitten off from active gear. These strandings demonstrate that ingestion of marine debris can be fatal to large whales, in addition to the well documented entanglements known to impact these species. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Moore S.E.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Gulland F.M.D.,The Marine Mammal Center
Ocean and Coastal Management | Year: 2014

The 'New Normal' Arctic ecosystem and the reliance of indigenous people on marine mammals for subsistence makes urgent the need for a comprehensive marine mammal health monitoring program linked to regional ocean observing systems. An Arctic-focused Marine Mammal Health Map (MMHM) framework could be initiated via expansion and coordination between regional Ocean Observing Systems and Community-based Monitoring Programs. In the US, this approach would build upon three activities currently supported by the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS): ocean data access, community based monitoring and spatial tools for data visualization. The new MMHM framework would support a more holistic understanding of climate change impacts to ocean ecosystems, aid in the prioritization of management efforts to mitigate impacts to marine mammals and complement marine ecosystem monitoring programs fostered by the Arctic Council and UNESCO. Ultimately, we advocate for the inclusion of MMHM products as 'essential ocean variables' in the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). © 2014 Published by Elsevier Ltd.


News Article | November 23, 2015
Site: www.techtimes.com

A record number of northern fur seal pups have been found stranded on Northern California beaches and showing signs of malnutrition. The newly weaned seal pups are emaciated and weigh little more than the typical birth weight for their species, as assessed by experts. "They're adorable, but on the other hand they're these little bags of skin and bones," says Jeoff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center near Sausalito, Calif. The center has reported taking in 85 young northern fur seals, which normally live in Pacific Ocean waters and on islands, but rarely seen on mainland beaches. "To have these guys up on our shores is the first sign they're not well," says Boehm. The previous record for stranded pups was 31 in 2006, the center says. Experts say the pups, likely between 4 and 5 months old, were probably born on the Channel Islands in Southern California or the Farallon Islands around 30 miles east of San Francisco. Experts say the undernourishment of the seals, also being seen in the region's sea lions, is the result of an unexpected band of warm water off the California coast. The atypical warmer water is preventing colder water rich in nutrients from rising to the surface, water that would normally carry a bounty of fish into the seal habitat. The scarcity of that food source means seal mothers must leave their pups alone for longer stretches while they search for food; the result is that both the mothers and their pups are underfed, Boehm explains. The El Niño weather pattern predicted for this winter in the equatorial Pacific waters could make the situation even worse, he says. "All the playbooks seem to be changing," he says. The stranded seals are just the latest in the series of events alarming conservationists. An "unusual mortality event" has been affecting California sea lions for almost a year, with sea lions – mostly pups – being found malnourished on the region's beaches. The Marine Mammal Center has taken in 1,344 sea lions since December of last year; by the end of this year, the number may surpass the record 1,356 taken in during 2009, Boehm says.

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