Definitely not a good thing.

Courtesy of Focusing on Wildlife

The first reports came in May. They were sparse, but enough to put seabird-monitoring coordinator Hillary Burgess on edge. “Here we go again,” she thought. By late June, almost every time she checked her inbox, yet more news of washed-up seabirds on the Alaskan coast greeted her.

Volunteers had collected nearly 9,200 seabird carcasses by early September—and those are just the bodies found washed ashore. Kathy Kuletz, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist, estimates the total number of deaths may reach in the hundreds of thousands.

Historically, mass seabird die-offs have been occasional events in Alaska, but for the past five years, they have occurred annually.

This year, as the carcasses continued to pile up, a few new trends became clear: The die-offs were more geographically widespread and lasted for a longer period compared to previous years, and they largely targeted Short-tailed Shearwaters, although dead puffins, murres, and auklets—the main victims in recent years— have also been found.

Scientists say the most obvious explanation for the consistent die-offs since 2015 is warmer ocean temperatures. However, despite years of tracking efforts and study by numerous organizations, much remains unclear, including what exactly has triggered each year’s deaths and why different species are affected in different years.

What scientists do know is that seabirds, as well as other marine wildlife, have been starving.“Basically, the birds are not eating anything,” says Bob Dusek, a wildlife biologist at the National Wildlife Health Center. Necropsies from previous years show more than 80 percent of examined seabirds died of emaciation or starvation, and initial results this summer point to the same in most locations.

The deaths are likely directly linked to the lower numbers of fish now in Alaska waters, and that of course is tied to global warming. 

We may not think about it very much but the survival of the human species is greatly impacted by the survival of life in the sea.

We ignore these signs at our own peril.