So what really triggered the mysterious and devastating crash of Steller sea lions in Alaska?

Steller sea lion bull sits on beach in Gulf of Alaska
Steller Seal Lion
NOAA photo library

Not munching by killer whales. Not illegal kills or competition by fishermen. Not strange diseases nor insidious poison. It was, at least at first, a vast regional warming of the sea, a “regime shift” that triggered cascading changes in the fish available for sea lion dinner.

When a cold ocean dominated by fat-laced goodies of herring and capelin transformed in the late 1970s into a warmer marine world dominated by less nutritious pollock and flatfish, Steller sea lions along 1,000 miles of coast just couldn’t eat enough of the right food to grow to adulthood, stay healthy and make babies.

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