“It just feels like one of those postapocalyptic movies.”
A horrifying scenario has unfolded in the wake of the deadly heatwave that has rocked the Pacific Northwest as scientists have discovered that roughly one billion marine animals have died due to high temperatures.
The extreme heat throughout Western US and Canada over the past two weeks have left more than a billion sea creatures dead, according to The New York Times. The heatwave has been directly attributed to tragic sights such as dead mussels that were cooked alive in their shells, dead and dehydrated sea stars, and schools of salmon struggling to swim in overheated rivers.
"It just feels like one of those postapocalyptic movies," said Christopher Harley, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia, to the NYT.
Calculating the Loss
To calculate the deaths, Harley examined a specific region of shoreline for blue mussels. He drew on data about the amount of mussels that have died in that area, as well as the other creatures that live in those mussel beds.
In the end, he was able to estimate that more than a billion sea creatures died due to the heat.
Taking Its Toll
In response, some government organizations have had to physically remove creatures from their waters to cooler environments. For example, the Idaho Fish and Game agency has begun capturing and transporting endangered sockeye salmon from their overheated rivers to hatcheries.
Some other fish aren’t so lucky, such as the chinook salmon in California’s central valley where the water is expected to get too hot for eggs and young salmon to survive.
"We’re looking at maybe 90 percent mortality, maybe even higher, this year," said Jonathan Ambrose, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
While the toll on the creatures is overwhelming, the impact this is all having on the researchers who have devoted their lives and work to studying and caring for the environment is having dispiriting effects too.
"I want to find the positives and there are some, but it’s pretty overwhelming right now," said Harley. "Because if we become too depressed or too overwhelmed, we won’t keep trying. And we need to keep trying."
More on heatwave: The Climate Change-Linked Heatwave Has Now Killed Hundreds of People