Mass starvation of Australia sea birds as 25,000 wash up dead on Sunshine Coast – Up to five million birds may have died, unable to find baitfish to eatPosted by Jim at Saturday, November 30, 2013
By Bill Hoffman
28 November 2013
(Sunshine Coast Daily) – Lindsay Dines has been watching dead mutton birds wash in at Teewah for more than a month.
He knows death is part of their migratory fate.
Their long, figure eight of the Pacific that starts in Tasmania, touches the northern hemisphere Aleutian Islands, and then California before the long journey home.
But Lindsay fears something more is at play.
The avid fisherman and environmentalist has deep concerns about the numbers dying.
"I'm told that a month ago a count was done by someone - 25,000 between Noosa North Shore and Caloundra,'' he said.
"And there are media reports of dead birds extending from Bundaberg to southern coast of Victoria, plus Tasmania and the New Zealand's west coast - in abnormally large numbers and along all beaches creating great concern in communities all along the coast.
"All birds tested by vets were found to be emaciated and starving.''
Given the range of the death and numbers being reported, Mr Dines fears as many as five million birds may have died.
When conditions are calmer, they seek out baitfish herded to the surface by tuna and other predatory fish.
"Feeding on migration is essential and is totally dependent on there being both predatory fish and baitfish along the migratory path,'' Mr Dines said.
"This year has been different to past mass deaths.
"The shearwaters are frantically trying to feed inshore in large numbers before they land on the water in the surf or not far beyond and wash in mostly alive.
"There are insufficient predatory fish present inshore to herd the baitfish for the shearwaters to feed.
"I've been watching all seabirds, including shear waters over the last few months constantly searching for food, but they are rarely finding any."
University of Canberra's Professor Nick Klomp, now deputy vice-chancellor for education, spent 20 years researching short-tail shearwaters (mutton birds).
He said Mr Dines' theory might well be true but it needed further research.
Prof Klomp said shearwaters that had successfully completed their annual migration were now laying eggs at their breeding grounds in southern NSW, Victoria and the islands off Tasmania.
He said there was no doubt impact of environmental factors could lead to more deaths than normal.