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When will our long night of global corporate greed and killing finally fade away into the light?

Why is the Beach Covered with Dead Birds?

dead auklets
Massive die offs of shore birds continues

On the Winter Solstice I went to the Oregon Coast, only to find it covered with hundreds of dead birds. Their fresh corpses lay scattered along that morning’s hightide mark on Gearhart Beach.

I was alarmed.

The birds’ feathers were barely ruffled, like dead birds in a still-life painting. Scavengers avoided them. Except one seagull who took a single peck, then left to wash out his beak in the sea, shaking his head No! No! No!

What killed this huge flock of birds all at once? Was it mass starvation? Not enough food in the changing ocean currents of melting ice caps? Too weak to continue flying in the extreme winds of changed global climate? Like feathered rain they dropped into the sea, which regurgitated them onto the sand.

I was alarmed.

So, I consulted the oracle of news, Google, expecting to find an article addressing this alarming event. But I found none. Instead I found “Dead birds on beaches no cause for alarm.” It was the headline of a 1992 print article Google had chosen to scan and digitize online, with the added commentary, “No related articles.” But what about December 21, 2014, 22 years after that alarming article?

I searched some more and learned that for the past couple of decades, or more, volunteers have been walking beaches, and compiling mountains of reports of dead birds. Some of these groups are: Bay Keeper in San Francisco, Coast Watch in Oregon, and Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) in Washington state.

How connected are these groups? It seems pretty scattered. COASST has a blog where it mentions being connected to none of the above, but only to Beach Watch in San Francisco (not to be confused with the afore mentioned Bay Keeper), BeachCOMBERS in Monterey, California, and the British Columbia Beached Bird Survey. And what about the December 24th News Lincoln County article about the bird corpse apocolypse? It calls for citizens to carry cameras and take pictures of the dead birds washed ashore from the global-climate-changed acidic seas, and email the photos to biologist Douglas Cottam of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. I wouldn’t know what to do if I received hundreds and thousands of photos of dead birds in my email inbox. Poor Mr. Cottam.

It sounds like a lot of us are worried and trying to do something, and our efforts are scattered. Meanwhile, big business and their politician puppets keep on delaying coming to any meaningful agreement to cut greenhouse-causing emissions, as seen in the recent Lima Climate Summit. And all of us alarmed at the bird corpses washing in with each high tide, which are ignored by the media. So many different groups and people trying to do good, yet scattered. Not yet united.

Divide and conquer is a time-tested method of social control. The reports are divided and not looked at as a whole. While dead common murres and cassin’s auklets wash up repeatedly on the North Coast of Oregon, in San Francisco the self-described “novice birder” who heads the environmental organization Bay Keeper claimed in a 2011 article that common murre nesting populations are “On the Comeback Trail” on the tiny rocky Farallon islands outside of the Golden Gate (where over 47,000 metal barrels of nuclear waste rust where they were dumped on the sea bottom 300 feet below in the 1950s-1970s). Yuck. Would you want to raise your babies in a place like that?

Then there’s the tactic of turning a blind eye to the true culprits — multi-national corporations. COASST, despite all its good work, hides neoliberal military-industrial complex culpability by not including effects of global warming as a “human” factor in its cataloging the massive deaths of birds. It turns a blind eye to actions by the military industrial complex, unless it is something visible that obviously killed a bird, such as an oil spill or physical objects. Lack of food and extreme weather because of ocean currents shifted with the melting of the ice caps because of human actions and policies are ignored as causes of the massive die-offs. Those die-offs are labeled “natural.”

So, it seems that earnest volunteers braving all kinds of weather to walk the beaches counting bird corpses on the West Coast of the United States are having their findings stymied by being divided geographically, organizationally, and/or categorically. The truth is being hidden through divide and conquer. I wrote to COASST, suggesting they coordinate with more groups, such as the ones mentioned above. Their response did not arrive in time to quote in this article.

As far as I can tell, there is no one looking at the big picture.

According to Google, rarely does this ongoing massacre of birds get reported in the media.

One exception was in 2012 when the Press flocked to the Japanese dock that washed up on an Oregon beach after it broke off in the “new normal” extreme weather of a tsunami, which also triggered a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. Those reporters and camera operators couldn’t ignore the hundreds of dead birds all around them. One article mentioned the Japanese dock and bird corpses and blamed pelicans. It was not looked at in context of continuing shorebird die-offs.

Die-offs of meres and auklets have become so commonplace that COASST seabird program coordinator Dolliver described it as sporting event.

“Both species have different life histories but are constantly in competition for the top dead bird of each year. They drive a lot of baseline patterns we see every year because they are the top players . . . “

I am alarmed.

Auklets eat krill in the sea. Krill that is often no longer there from changing ocean temperatures and increased acidity. The birds are divers and swimmers, not strong flyers, and get swept to their deaths by bigger and stronger storms. Meanwhile corporations profit from disaster “relief.” Profit is the legally mandated mission for corporations. Empathizing with our sister and brother creatures here on Gaia and preventing disasters before they occur is not included in an accountant’s “bottom line.”

Since the news didn’t mention the hundreds of dead birds I saw, I emailed Phillip Johnson, president of Oregon Shores Coast Watch. He forwarded my question to the group and volunteers responded that they had counted hundreds of dead Cassin’s Auklets last Sunday, the same day I visited the beach. It was just the latest in a long series of corporate mass murders. Here I quote directly from our email conversation:

“I put out the word to our Clatsop County mile adopters, and sure enough, I heard from a number of them that they had seen large numbers of beached birds after the last storm.  I was right–most of them are Casssin’s auklets.  One response noted 30 dead birds in the space of a quarter-mile, and noted:

Cassin’s Auklets – They have been washing up dead on the beaches for several months but in larger numbers after the most recent storm.  Bad year for the seabirds – no food in the ocean.

    Another read:

There are hundreds of dead birds on the northern beaches.  They’re auklets.

 And a third, from a CoastWatcher who is also a volunteer at the Wildlife Center of the North Coast and participates in CoastWatch’s beached bird survey:

The majority of the dead birds are auklets; especially the little cassin’s auklet. There are also dead common murres.

So, what I speculated yesterday is pretty much right–the ‘wreck’ of Cassin’s auklets continues . . . “

None of this was mentioned in the mainstream news. Big business owns the major media outlets. What else are “they” not telling us?

The day I visited the Coast and mourned at the sandy tombs of these gentle beings was the Winter Solstice. Longest night of the year. The return of the sun. Of the light.

When will our long night of global corporate greed and killing finally fade away into the light?

I am alarmed, yet I have hope.

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About Lynette Yetter

Lynette Yetter is the author of the books "72 Money Saving Tips for the 99%" and "Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace, a novel." Lynette is a permanent resident of Bolivia and a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at Reed College.

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25 comments

  1. Thank you for this very informative and alarming
    (yes, I am alarmed as well) article. Your research into other groups was
    helpful in understanding the magnitude of what is happening. I ask myself the
    same question—when will the long night of global corporate greed end? Don’t we all–rich and poor, laborer or CEO–want
    our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren…to enjoy birds and bees and
    mountains and seas? Colorado, where I live, has lost over 70% of its lodge pole
    pine to pine beetles—the result of trees weak from drought and beetle
    populations robust after warmer winters. I’m alarmed when I drive for an hour
    past miles of dead trees on the mountainside. It’s sobering to realize that in
    my own small way, I helped create the problem and that now I must dive into it.
    I hope we never accept the notion that dead birds belong on a beach

    • Thank you, Barbara, for taking the time to read my article and to post your thoughtful and heartfelt comments.
      One Oregon scientist wrote to me defending cautiousness, of not wanting to say decades of massive seabird deaths are connected to corporate-caused global warming, of not wanting to be accused of “crying wolf.” But, like you are observing, the wolf of human-caused climate change has already devoured almost all of the lodge pole pine forest in Colorado.
      Here in Bolivia the glaciers are disappearing (or have already disappeared) right before our eyes in the last ten years.
      For Spanish speakers (or anyone with a translation program) who want to learn more about climate change, I recommend reading the blog http://cambioclimatico-bolivia.org/index-cc.php. It is by German PhD candidate Dirk Hoffman who participates in climate summits around the world, and is free of the fear-factor and special interest that hobbles much discussion in the U.S. press.

      • What I am alarmed at is that the mainstream media ignores this ongoing tragedy.
        I believe that dead-seabird counts need to be part of the daily newscasts, along with
        the weather report and the Dow Jones average.

        • In Bolivia people tell me their first-hand
          experiences of global climate change. In this land of much subsistance
          farming, last year’s potato crop (the food staple) was completely
          destroyed by unseasonable and severe hailstorms. This year the rainy
          season did not start when it should. Just now, two months into what had
          always been the rainy season, are scattered rains just beginning to
          fall.

          The glaciers that provide drinking water for the 2,500,000
          people in the La Paz area are either gone or just shreds of their former
          selves. Meanwhile, corporations keep using fossil fuels and driving the earth’s temperature higher and higher, off the charts of anything experienced in the past 800,000 years (all of human history and more), according to the Scripps Institute. The maximum ppm (parts per million) of CO2 (carbon dioxide) never was more than 300 ppm. We are now experiencing around 400 ppm, not seen since the Pliocene Era of 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 years ago where carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 415 ppm and dinasaurs roamed the Earth. (See reference: https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/ and https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/2013/12/03/what-does-400-ppm-look-like/ )

          • Dr Joseph S Maresca

            We need solar desalination plants to provide water from the oceans. The only other issue is filtering the water of the plastic or inorganic garbage. Inorganic chemistry is not recognized by the body as a natural substance and internal inflammations may result.

          • Thank you for posting your suggestions, Dr Joseph S Maresca.

        • And the Keeling Curve also needs to be part of the daily newscast! I just learned about this. Scripps Institute of Oceanography measures and publishes online the level of CO2 in the atmosphere every day. That’s what makes the difference between the temperatures for the last 800,000 years, which humans have been living in (through ice ages and everything), and the temperatures that the dinasaurs lived in 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 years ago. Humanity formed societies when the CO2 level was 300 ppm or lower. Now, since the Industrial Revolution, when neoliberal industry started burning fossil fuels, the CO2 level has risen to near 400 ppm — almost to where it was when dinasaurs stomped around (415+ pmm). For example, today’s CO2 level is 399.32 ppm. See for yourself! https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/ and https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/2013/12/03/what-does-400-ppm-look-like/

  2. Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Plastic garbage in the oceans may be the likely culprit along with nuclear waste and mega storm activity. [See reference here: http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/08/28/plastic-waste-killing-birds-tens-thousands

    • Thank you, Dr. Joseph S Maresca, for posting this helpful reference. Since the Industrial Revolution, corporations that seek only to make a profit have been destroying life on planet earth with their garbage of plastic, nuclear waste, and CO2 — cluttering, posioning and raising the temperature of our planet to beyond anything experienced since human beings appeared and started forming societies. (See reference here: http://cambioclimatico-bolivia.org/index-cc.php?cod_aporte=80#80 )

  3. Is anyone doing autopsies on these dead birds? Why aren’t the scavengers eating them? Are they radioactive?

    • Thank you to Phillip Johnson of Oregon Shores / Coast Watch for this reply:

      “Yes, necropsies are currently being conducted. The apparent
      cause is starvation–probably not literally starving to death, but
      becoming weak enough due to malnutrition that they die of
      exposure. But the “wreck” has gone on long enough, and somewhat
      mysteriously has been confined to the one species, that there are
      questions about what is going on.

      There has never been any sign of radioactivity in debris from
      Japan reaching the West Coast, let alone in birds that spend their
      lives on the side of the Pacific. Besides, there is no reason to
      think that Cassin’s auklets would be more susceptible to radiation
      than any other seabird. I haven’t received any other reports of
      scavengers shunning the bird carcasses . . . “

      • Gentle readers, if you are walking on the Oregon Coast and see dead birds that scavengers shun, please report it to http://oregonshores.org/narrative.php5?nid=168

        • Correction — if you are walking on any beach on the West Coast and see dead birds that scavengers shun, please report it to http://oregonshores.org/narrative.php5?nid=168

        • There are dozens and dozens of dead auklets between Waldport and Yachats Oregon which is the central oregon coast. I could not get a count as there were so many and I was focussed on getting my kids and dog out of there without contact. There is also a ton of garbage. Some of which is written in Japanese. We also found Russian garbage. Sad to see. I’ve been visiting this are of the coast for 20 years and I have never seen so much garbage and dead birds. Has anyone else noted a fine fibrous material on the beach? It covers just about everything. I will take pictures. Next time I am here, I will bring my geiger counter also to see if there is a spike.

  4. Here is a synopsis of a recent report from one volunteer beach walker counting the dead birds on a one mile strip of the Oregon Coast (complete report on http://oregonshores.org/report.php5?rid=6409)

    MILE 289 on 12/26/14 – OLLIKAINEN

    LOCATION:Tillamook • Kincheloe Point, South Jetty Tillamook RiverDEAD BIRDS: Total: 132 • Species/names: 126 Cassin’s Auklets, 2 Western Grebes, 2 Northern Fulmars, 1 Common Murre, and 1 Rhinoceros Auklet
    SUMMARY:There
    is a major die off (wreck) of Cassin’s Auklets going on now. We found
    126 on Mile 289. We do COASST surveys on Mile 286, and neighbors warned
    us of a huge number of small birds washing in a few days ago. On the
    way to 289, we did a quick count on (mile) 286. There were 121 (dead birds) on (mile) 286. It
    will take hours and hours to tag and photograph all those according to
    the COASST protocols.

    I googled Cassin’s Auklet Die Off. There were many hits. Here is one
    from Sonoma, CA,
    http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/3145997-181/large-scale-die-off-of-small-seabird?page=3

    It’s
    a major event, but it appears to the COASST people to be limited to
    breeding success. The Cal people have a different take.

    OBSERVER:
    ollikainen EMAIL • REPORT PUBLISHED 12/26/14 8:41 PM
    Here are quotes from the California article link above:
    “Scientists up and down the West Coast are monitoring what appears to be a large-scale die-off of young Cassin’s auklets, small seabirds whose breeding grounds include a colonyin the Farallon Islands west of San Francisco.

    Emaciated, white-bellied birds have been washing ashore in Sonoma County and along a broad swath of California coastline since early November after a period of ocean warming in the Farallones region and disappearance of the tiny krill that provide their main source of food, researchers say.

    Scientists are still collecting data, but the largest concentration of dead birds appears to be in northern Oregon, according to monitors in the Pacific Northwest. Birds have been washing up in Washington, as well.

    Scientists say anyone who finds a dead bird should leave it alone so that monitors surveying the beaches can collect accurate records on the die-off.

    … Jaime Jahncke, director of California Current at Point Blue Conservation
    Sciences, which has monitored the Cassin’s auklets in the Farallon
    National Wildlife Refuge for more than four decades, said mean sea
    surface temperatures recorded in July and August were the second-highest
    in 45 years, and rose substantially in September.”

  5. It’s strange that the U.S. Government collects and publishes weekly updates on the changes in ocean temperatures (which are killing the krill that the Cassin’s Auklets need to eat to survive), yet they hide this information behind deceptive language and methodology of compiling data (

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/enso_advisory/). For example, on page 2 they ignore the big picture of rising sea temperatures by comparing the current temperature only to “the 1981-2010 base period weekly means.” What does this gobbledy-gook language mean? First I looked up “arithmetic mean” in the dictionary that came with my MacBook. It says a “mean” is: “the average of a set of numerical values, calculated by adding them together and dividing by the number of terms in the set.”

    In other words, instead of comparing current sea surface temperature to its average temperature over the past 800,000 years of human life on earth, they compare the amount of the rise in temperature only to the average of the sky-rocketing temperatures only after Global Warming was well into its steep climb that continues unabated.

    Some scientists in China speak more plainly, such as in an academic article that states that the rising sea temperatures of global warming have increased the severity of El Niño events by 60% during the past 50 years. You can download the complet article at http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/envs501/downloads/Zhang%20et%20al.%202008.pdf , and I copy its abstract here.

    ADVANCES IN ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES, VOL. 25, NO. 3, 2008, 361–366
    ENSO Amplitude Change in Observation and Coupled Models
    ZHANG Qiong1 (􀀀 􀀀), GUAN Yue1,3 (􀀀 ), and YANG Haijun∗2 (􀀀􀀀)
    1State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (LASG),
    Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029
    2Department of Atmospheric Science, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    3Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
    (Received 18 June 2007; revised 14 September 2007)

    ABSTRACT
    Observations show that the tropical El Ni˜no-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability, after removing both the long term trend and decadal change of the background climate, has been enhanced by as much as 60% during the past 50 years. This shift in ENSO amplitude can be related to mean state changes in global climate. Past global warming has caused a weakening of the Walker circulation over the equatorial Indo-Pacific oceans, as well as a weakening of the trade winds and a reduction in the equatorial upwelling. These changes in tropical climatology play as stabilizing factors of the tropical coupling system. However, the shallower and strengthening thermocline in the equatorial Pacific increases the SST (Sea Surface Temperature) sensitivity to thermocline (movement between upper and lower layers of ocean currents) and wind stress variabilities and tend to destabilize the tropical coupling system. Observations suggest that the destabilizing factors, such as the strengthening thermocline, may have overwhelmed the stabilizing effects of the atmosphere, and played a deterministic role in the enhanced ENSO variability, at least during the past half century. This is different from the recent assessment of IPCC-AR4 coupled models.

  6. In 2007 this BBC article described Global Warming changing ocean conditions that have created, and continue to create, dead zones off the Oregon Coast. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6370905.stm
    Why is this not still news? Why does CCOAST insist of sticking to their “successful breeding” myth of Cassin’s Auklets as the only explanation for these birds’ continuing mass deaths?

  7. Bravo to The Epoch Times and Natural News for their recent independently-researched article adding to the Big Picture on why the beach is covered with dead birds! http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1200265-over-1200-seabirds-mysteriously-die-on-pacific-coast/

  8. There’s no krill for the Cassin’s Auklets to eat, and CVS is vacuuming krill out of the sea to sell as dietary supplements. Here’s more info from SumOfUS and a link to sign a petition:

    http://act.sumofus.org/go/7268?t=4&akid=8968.2786505.GjqXy1

    full report here: act.sumofus.org/go/7200?t=5&akid=8968.2786505.GjqXy1

    CVS is supporting the plunder of Antarctica and one of the last unspoiled oceans on the planet.

    The pharmacy giant is marketing
    and selling Antarctic krill oil as a health supplement — vacuuming
    krill in vast quantities from the Antarctic oceans and pumping them into
    pills. It’s putting the entire Antarctic ecosystem at risk, and we can stop it.

    Krill are tiny crustaceans (they
    look a lot like miniature shrimp), but they represent a giant link in
    the Antarctic food chain. A new SumOfUs report shows that krill numbers
    are crashing, endangering the survival of hundreds of marine creatures like whales, penguins and seals.

    The only way these companies will stop is if there’s no market for
    Antarctic wildlife on our shelves. That’s why we’re targeting CVS — if
    we can get this major retailer to refuse to sell krill-killing
    supplements, we can stop fishing companies from destroying the
    Antarctic.

    Will
    you sign on and tell CVS to stop stocking Antarctic krill-based omega-3
    health supplements and save one of the last unspoiled oceans on earth?

    The
    krill population is vital, but it’s depleting fast. Research shows
    krill populations have already dropped by 80 percent since the 1970s.
    What’s also shocking is that Antarctic penguin populations, which depend
    on krill for food, have collapsed by 50 percent in the last 30 years.

    Krill are on the front lines of climate change — melting sea ice is
    destroying their habitat, and ocean acidification could further harm
    them. And at the same time, krill also play a key role in slowing global
    warming, as they transport carbon dioxide from the surface to the deep
    water.

    Yet krill fishing is a lucrative industry — seafood
    companies use mammoth vessels equipped with new technology that
    literally vacuum the pristine Antarctic ocean, sucking up krill in
    massive volumes. It’s one of the last fish stocks that hasn’t been plundered to near extinction — but it might not stay that way for long. And to
    save krill, we’re targeting CVS, one of the biggest, high-profile
    retailers of krill oil, to cut off demand for these tiny crustaceans.

    CVS — stop selling krill-killing pills that are destroying the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem.

    CVS
    stocks krill-based products by MegaRed and other companies, as well as
    selling its own, home brand krill oil. CVS claims that their krill
    products are sustainable, but the claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. In
    fact, only some of its krill products are certified. And leading
    environment groups including Greenpeace and Pew Environment Group have
    long objected to the certification of krill fishing, saying that it “falsely
    advertises the message that all krill are sustainably caught and that
    consuming krill-based omega 3 supplements … is okay. Nothing could be
    further from the truth.”

    But it doesn’t have to be like
    this — we can eat and protect our health without it being so costly to
    the Earth. Omega-3 health supplements can be produced from plant-based
    inputs or from fisheries that are sustainably harvested.

    Fishing companies won’t stop pillaging the Antarctic unless we show them that there’s no longer demand for these products.
    Putting pressure on well-known retailers is the best way we can stop
    the depletion of the krill population. By disrupting demand and getting
    rid of this market, we can make retailers put the environment over
    profits.

    At SumOfUs, we’ve done this
    before, and we’ve won. Last year we got retailers like Zara, ASOS, and
    Topshop to stop using angora fur from bunnies having their fur cruelly
    ripped out for clothes. And we’ve pushed major companies like Kellogg’s
    to stop destroying the rainforest to produce palm oil.

    This is what we’re doing
    again — targeting CVS, a public-facing corporation, so we can curb the
    demand for Antarctic krill, and stop the collapse of the entire
    Antarctic marine ecosystem.

    Tell CVS to stop selling krill-based omega-3 health supplements now.

    http://act.sumofus.org/go/7268?t=4&akid=8968.2786505.GjqXy1

    Thanks for all you do,
    Paul, Katherine, and the team at SumOfUs

    **********

    More information:

    Vacuuming Antarctica for Krill: The Corporations Plundering the Earth’s Last Frontier, full SumOfUs report: act.sumofus.org/go/7200?t=5&akid=8968.2786505.GjqXy1

    SumOfUs
    is a worldwide movement of people like you, working together to hold
    corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable
    path for our global economy.

  9. Is nuclear contamination from Fukushima killing the birds and other sealife in the Pacific Ocean? https://dougmichaeltruth.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/fukushima-the-extinction-level-event-that-no-one-is-talking-about/

  10. Lynette Yetter, author

    Dead bird counts of Cassins Auklets continue to be huge. http://depts.washington.edu/coasst/patterns/index.html
    Could climate change and the record-breaking vast dead zone of toxic algae be a contributor to thes massive die off of shore birds?
    https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/record-setting-bloom-toxic-algae-north-pacific