By JOHN RYAN • JUL 16, 2016
Seabirds have been washing up dead on beaches in Washington and British Columbia this summer, and scientists can't say why.
Rhinoceros auklets are one of the most common birds in the network of inland waterways shared by Washington and British Columbia. Since May, volunteer "citizen scientists" on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula and across the water in Victoria, British Columbia, have found dozens of the puffin-like birds washed ashore.
It's a tiny toll compared to the dieoffs of other species of seabirds in 2014 and 2015. Common murres and Cassin's auklets washed up by the hundreds of thousands up and down North America's west coast.
But scientists are concerned nonetheless.
"There's something larger going on here," University of Washington biologist Julia Parrish said. “If we ignore it and only pay attention when it’s really dire, then it’s often too late to do anything about it.”
Parrish runs the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, whose volunteer beachwalkers help scientists keep tabs on seabirds and garbage floating ashore in five western states.