Decline of islands’ Auklet population expected

  • May. 19, 2015 3:00 p.m.

By Evelyn von AlmassyHaida Gwaii ObserverThe Cassin’s auklet die-off event looks to be over, and the mystery surrounding their deaths is solved. From Alaska down to northern California, above average sea temperatures along the west coast this winter pushed out the cold-water food source for tens of thousands auklets, replacing it with a less-nutriousous warm-water variety, effectively starving the sea birds to death.Last December, BC Parks sent several carcases to the Canadian Wildlife Service for investigation after hundreds of the dead birds washed up in Tlell between Wiggins Road and Misty Meadows campground.The birds were found following a strong southeast storm that hit Haida Gwaii on Dec. 18, with winds over 100 km/hour. But as the bodies of thousands of Cassin’s auklets were also on the shores up and down the North American west coast, it became evident the die-off wasn’t caused by the storm as first predicted.”There is no relationship between how stormy the fall-winter was, and this die-off,” said Dr. Julia Parrish at the University of Washington, who took over the investigations from Environment Canada. Previous winters, most notably in 2006-07, were much stormier. But in the fall of 2014 there was a serious elevation of sea-surface temperature above normal. This so-called “blob,” says Dr. Parrish, “is a very, very large body of water that hit the coastline from Alaska south to southern California.” It literally squeezed out any of the normal cooler water. This wide, warm, water ribbon was several hundred kilometres long, reaching deep into the ocean. The winds in the Pacific were not strong enough this year to bring in the cooler water.Other researchers were also involved in autopsies. Dr. Julia Lankton, of the National Wildlife Health Centre, in Madison, Wisconsin, conducted several weeks-long autopsies on the auklets, to help arrive at the conclusions. She also found the juveniles born this year were emaciated, with rarely any food in their stomachs.The Cassin’s Auklet population next year may see a decrease, as “Some very preliminary data suggests that the number of occupied burrows at monitored colonies in B.C. may be lower than normal.” Dr. Parrish said.The highest concentrations of carcases washing ashore were on the south outer coast of Washington and the northern half of Oregon states. The auklet’s highest-known death rates occurred in South Oregon, with 150 carcasses per kilometre, right around Christmas time. The bird’s status was changed to a Species of Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife Canada (COSEWIC) in November 2014

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Skidegate celebrates 2020 grads with button blanket ceremony

Graduating students celebrated with Haida singing, drumming, speeches and custom button blankets

VIDEO: Port Clements bumper golf course in full swing

Volunteers, rec staff transformed soccer field into small, social distancing-friendly golf course

Gwaii Trust Society creates ‘Staycation Grant’ for Haida Gwaii residents

Residents may apply for up to $250 to explore adventure opportunities in their own backyard

Iconic Haida Gwaii species to be included in literary field guide for ‘Cascadia’

Experts, artists working on literary field guide with ‘kinship clusters’ for Pacific Northwest

Kristi Lane Sinclair art doc ‘taking a different stance’ on the Gaag.iid

Toronto-based Haida artist hopes to start editing passion project on the fabled ‘wild man’ next month

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Skeena Sawmills in Terrace reach labour agreement with local United Steelworkers union

The four and a half year long deal was ratified on May 19, 2020 and is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

Community infrastructure funding announced for 24 Northern B.C. projects

Recipients include municipalities, First Nations and not-for-profits

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Most Read