A local environmental group hopes that a pending investigation will lead to a culprit in several recent seabird deaths.
Nine seabirds were found dead on a stretch of beach near the Santa Barbara Harbor this past week. No visible indications of cause of death were discovered. The birds were collected and taken to the Wild Life Care Network Seabird Pond in Goleta to await further investigation.
Director of Channel Islands Animal Protection Association Rob Puddicombe said a link between the recent fish mortalities around the Santa Barbara Harbor and the dead seabirds is unlikely.
Puddicombe said recent dredging around the harbor was the most likely cause of the dead fish. He said the dredging caused dissolved oxygen levels in the ocean water to fall below the minimum level needed to sustain life. Puddicombe said, however, the dead fish would not be toxic to birds.
Puddicombe said he thinks a strong correlation exists between the National Park Service’s most recent airdrop of pesticide on Anacapa Island and the dead birds. The NPS announced that the Nov. 1 drop of the rat poison brodifacoum, intended to eradicate the non-native black rat, would be the last pesticide drop on the island.
Puddicombe said, however, the NPS did a surprise drop on Saturday Nov. 23 that mistakenly dispersed some of the poison over the surrounding water. He said the helicopter was far enough over the water to shower a chartered fishing boat and some of its fishermen onboard with the pesticide pellets.
Dead birds are common on the beach, Puddicombe said, but it is unusual to find them within such a close proximity and without the presence of oil or other obvious causes of death.
“I have never seen this many dead seabirds in one place at one time, especially from several different species,” Puddicombe said.