Reading sea animals for clues to catastrophe

Those of us who live in earthquake country wish there were some early warning signs to alert us when a big one will hit.   Some scientists say that animals can hold clues. Just days before Japan suffered a magnitude -9.0 earthquake,  a pod of 15 sperm whales were spotted rushing far from their usual territory in the southern ocean, toward the waters between Long Beach and Catalina Island.  At the same time,  an estimated 50 tons of dead sardines floated into Redondo Beach’s King Harbor.  Scientists say the sardines may have panicked for some reason and could have collided with a patch of oxygen dead sea.   Last year,  shoals of giant Humboldt squid crowded the waters off of San Pedro.   From my story:

The fishermen who know the sea best call the shoals of “red devils” off the California coast a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, the presence of Humboldt squid – known among Mexican fishermen as diablos rojos for their crimson hue when angered – bring extra business to sport fishing clubs during the offseason.

But on the other, the jumbo-sized predators may be a sign that the ocean is dying deep inside as chemicals from heavily industrialized coastlines deplete the oxygen.

Here’s the rest of my story (Daily News, 2010).  Days after the red devils made their California appearance, Chile suffered an 8.8-magnitude earthquake.


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