OCEAN heatwaves that wipe out marine life are occurring at double the rate experts had expected, a study shows.
The extreme warm spells — thought to be linked to global climate change — can last for months, killing fish and crustaceans and destroying coral reefs and kelp forests.
The new study warns that damage they cause to ecosystems is harming fishing and aquaculture industries.
Lead author Dr Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the US Gulf of Maine Research Institute, said: ‘Across the 65 ecosystems we examined, we expected about six or seven of them would experience these “surprises” each year.
‘Instead, we’ve seen an average of 12 ecosystems experiencing these warming events each year over the past seven years, including a high of 23 “surprises” in 2016.’
In 2018, the water temperature off San Diego hit a record 27.3C — the highest figure on the Californian coast since records began more than a century ago.
In 2016 and 2017, high temperatures killed half of the shallow water corals of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
A huge patch of warm water, a third the size of the US, formed in the Gulf of Alaska in 2013. Dubbed The Blob, it wiped out fish, birds and whales.
Previous research has shown the number of ocean heatwaves doubled between 1982 and 2016.
■ A GOVERNMENT transport adviser has been fined for his part in the Extinction Rebellion protests which brought parts of London to a standstill. Dr Steven Melia, 57, wept as he told a Westminster court his actions were a justified response to a ‘catastrophic’ climate emergency. He said: ‘I have always paid my taxes, obeyed the law, so it was a big step to do this. There really was no hope left.’ He was fined £500 and told to pay £300 costs.