"Big Blue Live": Day 2

The second episode of "Big Blue Live" was even more exciting than the first. Learn about why the Monterey Bay is turning into a biodiversity hotspot, and what implications that has for marine health.

by Neil Khosla

Sep. 2, 2015.—Many people are fascinated by fictional monsters and extinct creatures like dinosaurs, and will spend money on films depicting such fantastical beasts. But with animals like killer whales and great white sharks creeping through the ocean, who needs movies?

Last night’s episode of "Big Blue Live" was a total bloodbath. Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement. But there was a lot of blood, and it was in the biggest bath in the world – the Pacific Ocean.

In case you missed it, the most recent installment in the series presented beautiful images of humpback whales, elephant seals, killer whales and great white sharks. These last two species were definitely the stars of the show.

Ocean Predators

For all of you who are extremely afraid of sharks: fear no more. "Big Blue Live" squashed the myth that sharks are an actual threat to human swimmers.

This episode featured a diver swimming underwater near a great white shark – the largest predatory fish on the planet! The diver showed these sharks do not have an appetite for humans and will actually avoid us when we are in the vicinity.

But they do not feel the same way about seals and sea lions. "Big Blue Live" presented awesome footage of sharks munching on large marine mammals. They also showed a clip of a pair of killer whales cornering a harbor seal near a whale watching vessel. Did I mention that this episode was a bloodbath?

Warming Water Warnings

Carnage aside, this episode was also filled with vital environmental information. Most importantly, the waters along the California coast are warmer than expected, which has tremendous implications for marine health.

Right now, ocean temperatures in the Monterey Bay are reaching just over 60° F. That is five degrees warmer than the sea should be at this time of the year. This is in part due to the fact that this year is an El Niño year. A more important factor is the giant mass of warm, nutrient-poor water that is flooding the Monterey Bay.

This giant influx of warm water (coined “The Blob”) has been on the radar of marine biologists since it was first noticed in 2013. The Blob measures up to 1,000 miles long and 1,000 miles wide, reaching down to depths of 300 feet.

Though its cause is debatable, the Blob’s effects are ubiquitous in the Monterey Bay. Since the warm bath floated into local waters, many warm water loving species have migrated in as well. This includes fish from tropical regions that would otherwise avoid our normally colder waters.

But many species are also swimming away from the warmer waters. Without the nutrients provided by colder waters, many small planktonic species cannot grow. The fish that eat plankton are leaving to find food elsewhere. Animals that eat those fish are starving to death.

Dr. Steven Webster of the Monterey Bay Aquarium was interviewed on the show last night. He says that although the recent increases in marine diversity is exciting, it is also poses a threat to the health of the local organisms.

“It worries us because we don’t know where we’re headed,” says Webster. “We don’t know what the endgame will be.”

Make sure not to miss the final episode in the series tomorrow night at 8pm. Look out for more footage and information about orcas. It’s sure to be a killer episode!

Click here for our recap of Monday night's "Big Blue Live" episode.