West Coast marine life endangered by 'blob' heatwave

West Coast marine life endangered by 'blob' heatwave

A “blob” of warm water in the Pacific Ocean could disrupt the marine ecosystem off the coast of California, similar to an event that occurred five years ago, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The patch, designated the Northeast Pacific Marine Heatwave of 2019 and also referred to as a "blob," is the second-biggest such mass in four decades and, according to experts, is on a similar path to that of one that, from 2014 to 2016, caused toxic algae blooms and killed sea life ranging from sea lions to salmon en masse.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I am surprised to see something like this develop again so soon after what looked like the end of the marine heatwave in 2016,” Nate Mantua, head of the Landscape Ecology Team at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, Calif., told the newspaper.

“If this persists and it spreads to the coast, then I think it would be bad news for marine life and many fisheries along the West Coast,” he added.

The patch is 100 to 150 feet deep and stretches from Hawaii to the West Coast and from Baja California to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, according to the Chronicle. It remains about 1,000 miles offshore, suggesting it may not sustain itself long enough to cause similar consequences.

“It’s not all the way to the coastline, and that’s important because most of the marine life along the West Coast is near shore,” Mantua told the newspaper. “The other bright side of this, so far, is it’s a pretty thin blanket on the ocean, which means it doesn’t have a lot of inertia.”

However, he added, water of above-average temperatures has recently moved closer to the coasts of Oregon and Washington as well as the coast of Fort Bragg, off Mendocino County in Northern California. Temperatures south of the Golden Gate Bridge have been recorded as high as 59 degrees, several degrees above average for this time of year, he added.