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Lieutenant Elizabeth Crapo / NOAA Corps

Since July, the Marine Mammal Center in Sausolito, California has seen 68 sea lions sickened by toxic algae come through it's doors—just two less than they saw in all of 2016. The sea lions show signs of domoic acid poisoning, a toxin that is produced by the algae Pseudo-nitzchia. The toxin builds up in the sea lions, which eat fish that consume the algae. In many cases, domoic acid poisoning is fatal.

The strandings started farther south several months ago, Justin Viezbicke, the NOAA stranding coordinator for California tells Axios, and have been moving steadily north.

Why it matters: Toxic algal blooms don't just pose a threat to sea life. If humans ingest animals that contain the toxin, they can also die. The Oregon and Washington razor clam fisheries are currently closed due to high levels of domoic acid. Past algal blooms have closed fisheries for entire seasons, losing millions of dollars in revenue.

A new normal?

A record-breaking red tide in 2015 closed fisheries for months

and poisoned animals along the West Coast. At the time, scientists said the event—the largest bloom of Pseudo-nitzchia ever recorded—was likely

linked to climate change

and that similar blooms could become common in the future.

Go deeper

21 mins ago - Health

COVID-19 drives smell loss awareness, research

A health worker carries out an olfactory test outside Buenos Aires. Photo: Alejandro Pagni/AFP via Getty Images

The pandemic has thrust a relatively unknown ailment, anosmia — or smell loss — into the international spotlight.

Why it matters: Researchers hope smell testing becomes as standard as the annual flu shot, helping to detect early signs of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Health

Why we need to know COVID's origins

The WHO's headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Geopolitical tensions are foiling efforts to get to the bottom of how COVID-19 originated.

Why it matters: Insights into how COVID-19 began can help us prevent future pandemics — especially if it involved any kind of leak or accident at a virology lab.