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Galapagos sea lions head for warm Peru waters

February 8, 2010

Apparently, according the this BBC story, which directly quotes from the English version of a Peruvian newspaper article from 29 January:

A colony of sea lions endemic to the Galapagos Islands have moved 1,500km away, a Peru-based organisation which monitors the aquatic mammals has said.”

Oh my god that sounds bad, what can have caused such a momentous event one wonders….

“The Organisation for Research and Conservation of Aquatic Animals says the sea lions have swum to northern Peru because of rising temperatures.

It says the temperature rise was caused by climate change.”

Ahh…..climate change.  Of course, more trouble caused by massive temperature rises, so what is it this time?

“The monitors say the water temperature in Piura, off the coast of northern Peru, has risen from 17C to 23C over the last 10 years.”

Wow that’s a sudden jump of up to 6 degrees celcius in a decade!  God what are we doing to this planet?

It then goes on to say….

“The temperature is much closer to the sea temperature around the Galapagos Islands, which averages about 25C.”

Erm, ok, slight anomoly there I think.  Why would they travel 1500 miles to live somewhere which is AT LEAST 2 degrees cooler than the sea temperature they are used to?  Odd behaviour don’t you think for any creature?  Could there be other factors involved such as food stocks or some local condition around Galapagos??

Perhaps, as is well documented, fluctuations in local food stocks due to El Nino has forced them to forage further afield?  There have been several El Nino events in the past decade, so perhaps this has caused a re-distribution or reduction in available fish stocks?

Apparently, according the Darwin foundation:

“Many adult sea lions moved away….”

Erm, so where did they go then?  No prizes for guessing.

Perhaps this is not as certain as the BBC article reckons then…..

Ok, lets look into this a bit as there is something not right about it.  So I do a quick Google search and find:

Looks a serious, legitimate blog with some data on the Peruvian coastal SST’s on it. And what do we find…..

“Scientists are using everything from a yellow submarine to weather balloons and special airplanes to solve a climate conundrum: why is Peru getting colder while the rest of the world heats up?”

‘Over the past 50 years, the Peruvian coast has gotten colder, mainly because of stronger winds that have pulled up the deep cold waters of the ocean current.’”

Well I am stunned now.  This blog post is from October 2008, so as recently 2008 apparently its been getting cooler, not hotter off the coast of Peru?

Without going into boring detail, we see that ENSO effects the area significantly, but also that:

“Also note that there are no disproportionately large La Nina events reflected in the Peruvian Coast SST data.”  Yet it’s SO cold:

Erm ok, so how come these Peruvian guys reckon its suddenly much warmer over the same period the data is saying nothing is going on and in fact its COLD off the coast of Peru?

Ok, so the claim the temperature has gone up by 6 degrees in a decade is open to question.  So is this move unprecedented by the animals themselves?

Are these creatures really completely native to the Galapagos islands.  Well, not according to Wikipedia, amongst other sources,  they aren’t:

“Records have also been made of sightings on Isla del Coco“.  Well blow me, so these things actually move quite a way from the Galapagos then, and there is a permanent colony off the coast of Ecuador as well.

So not quite as “clingy” as we were led to believe then?

So lets dig deeper into the bits of the report the BBC did NOT quote:

The president of Orca, Carlos Yaipén, says the Foca colony is the first reported outside the Galápagos archipelago and due to an increase in sea temperature caused by climate change.

“Never before has a residency of Galápagos sea lions been reported outside of the islands. Individual sea lions have been reported stranded in Ecuador and Colombia, here as well, but never a colony,” says Yaipén. “This is due to their adaptation to climate change. The conditions of the sea around Piura are now similar to the Galápagos. This could result in the arrival of more sea lions as well as other species.”

Never before??? Erm, but there are dozens of sources online telling me about permanent colonies outside the islands?  Are these websites all telling lies?

So what else is said:

“The colony includes 30 sea lions”.

THIRTY?????  That’s a small colony. So the first pararaph that

A colony of sea lions endemic to the Galapagos Islands have moved 1,500km away”

…just may be a little untrue? It’s 30 animals from a population of 20,000 that we have now established is actually in several non-Galapagos colonies already!

Could they not have been simply a group heading from the Galapagos to Equador that got swept away in currents?  Or got lost?  I’m no expert but surely that’s a possibility considering how other sea mammals often appear miles away from where they usually appear due to getting lost or swept along in a storm or current?

Perhaps they were hunting along the Ecuadorian coast and got lost or swept to their current location?

basically, this is full of holes, with the main hole being how the data and scientific opinion seems to say that Peruvian sea temperatures are cold, possibly due to recent strong El Nino events pulling up colder deep ocean water, yet ORCA reckon they have been shooting up by six degrees, causing 30 sea lions to sit on their beach.

And why does the guy from ORCA claim there are no colonies outside the Galapagos islands (he should know he is apparently a marine life specialist), yet even a cursory glance online shows that there are actually colonies outside the Galapagos islands.

And a quick final check on Google pages indexed in the past 24 hours see the eco-warrior sites already picking up this unsubstantiated trash from the BBC and embellishing it further:

“Sea lion colony leaves Galapagos”

So in summary, this is factually dubious, it is not certain the sea temperature has risen at all.  It is also THIRTY sea lions and it is not unprecedented to find this species outside the Galapagos islands.

How has this become evidence of global warming?


From → BBC Climate Bias

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