Researchers Say Adorable, Toxic Sea Lions Are Poisoning California Beaches

Researchers Say Adorable, Toxic Sea Lions Are Poisoning California Beaches

Researchers may have figured out one way toxic mercury makes its way from the ocean onto our coast lines. Apparently, sea lions and seals are bringing it ashore with them.

I've always insisted: seals and sea lions are out to get us. You might call me paranoid; you might say we deserve it; but researchers today have released a study that backs up my claims. These supposedly adorable marine mammals are slowly poisoning us.

Well, we're actually poisoning ourselves. Human-caused pollution has been dumping an especially nefarious variant of mercury, methyl mercury, into our oceans for more than a century. We should feel badly about this - and we do, actually, because this mercury keeps making its way back onto land and into our bodies, eventually poisoning us. Mercury's been known to directly affect our brains, causing insanity, dementia, birth defects, and a host of other maladies.

Where do sea lions and seals factor into this? Well, they are predators, at the top of their respective food chains. Mercury we spill in the ocean gets soaked up by various plants and plankton, eaten by small fish, which are eaten by bigger fish, and so on - eventually, that elephant seal is going to chomp down on a meal that's more thermometer than tuna. The higher up the food chain you go, the more concentrated the mercury gets - up to ten million times more concentrated than in the surrounding seawater.

So these marine mammals come to shore, and end up leaving behind their molted fur, filled with the shiny toxic element. It seeps back into the soil (much of which leaks back into the ocean, where the cycle begins again), and we come along and drink it up. The study's numbers show how toxicity levels in seawater around Año Nuevo - a California beach - are twice as high as they should be during mating season, and seventeen times as high during molting season.

Californians already have enough to worry about, without contaminated critters dumping poison on their doorsteps.

Mercury is an especially insidious pollutant - not only because of how devastating it can be to ourselves and the environment, but because of its very nature as an element: it isn't going to break down into anything, it's just going to keep cycling through the food chain until there's nothing left to eat it or someone takes a proactive approach and takes it out of the water.

So what is the solution, here? Well, there really isn't a good one, yet. Small projects are being undertaken to slowly leach toxic substances from the oceans, but it's an uphill battle. Hopefully, knowing more about how mercury moves through the ocean - such as piggy-backing on sea mammals - will give us some insight.

In the meantime, I would advise eating slightly less sea lion steak than usual.

Source: Washington Post, PNAS

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sea lions?

I was so sure it was hipster hair coloring leaking into the water supply.

lets split the difference and blame the seals.

Well, with respect, the sea lions aren't even aware of it and we ARE supplying the mercury. Whose fault is it really?

I don't mind most marine mammals. But sea lions? I could do without sea lions.

Sea lions look cute at first, but they slowly poison everything if given a chance.

FalloutJack:
Well, with respect, the sea lions aren't even aware of it and we ARE supplying the mercury. Whose fault is it really?

The sea lions! Look at them squinting, flipping their little tails and urfurfing out there. Fuckers!

Seriously, though, don't pour mercury into the oceans. Mercury's bayud, mmmkay.

Hmm, the phrases "twice as high" and "seventeen times as high" don't necessarily mean anything without any proper context, like for instance - what is the normal baseline for mercury in the water around that beach? At what point does the content of mercury in the water pose a threat to human or marine life? What are the effects of this?

These are pretty important things to know Mr. Terrible Science Reporter (I know, that charged could be leveled at nearly anyone).

I guess I am left to assume that any amount of mercury in the ocean is going to mutate your DNA or something if you get in contact with it, but at least it could be explicitly stated if that's true...

Clearly we should create artificial beaches for sea lions to come molt in. Then we can gather the molted fur and put it for use against the enemies of humanity!

Oops, maybe manically dancing the lamplit streets, wearing all the coats didn't help much. Seemed like a reasonable idea at the time.

Poor sea lions. Getting the blame for things WE are responsible for.

PatrickJS:
Where do sea lions and seals factor into this? Well, they are predators, at the top of their respective food chains.

I believe the sharks would disagree with this statement. :P

Whale: Filthy humans and their toxins, polluting all the water. Did you know the average fish today contains more mercury than a rectal thermometer?
Fish: Uhhh yeah, I think I read that somewhere.
Whale: WOULD YOU EAT A RECTAL THERMOMETER? ANSWER ME DAMN YOU!
Fish: Can't say that I would.
Whale: Well I would. *sucks up and swallows the fish* Ahhhh, mercury...sweetest of the transition metals!
-Sealab 2021

Couldn't find the clip to post so you'll have to make due with the transcript. :P

Oh sure, blame sea lions for human pollution! And just look at their cute little faces! Wonder what Captain Planet would say about all this?

Oh no! They caught onto the cunning plan of GamerGate "sealions" to poison San Francisco with mercury! (not that it would change much, they are already exposed to plenty judging by how they are already mad as hatters).

image

(For those who don't understand:)

CrazyGirl17:
Oh sure, blame sea lions for human pollution! And just look at their cute little faces! Wonder what Captain Planet would say about all this?

I think he'd yell "The Power is mine, Bitches!" before transforming everyone into trees. Our only hope is to find a new Hitler, as that has proven to be his one true weakness (credit to Don Cheadle for the first part, and that second part is canon).

Sea lions remind me a lot of dogs. They're basically dog mermaids.

If I was a sea creature, I'd want one as a pet.

That's right! It's the sea lions' fault they swim in an environment poisoned by filthy, depraved journo... humans!

vallorn:

(For those who don't understand:)

Really? That's where the term came from? Well, that's another pointless factiod I learnt today. Cheers.

 

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