Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Press Room
6 January 2014

MBARI debunks misleading stories related to the MBARI News Release
Feast and famine on the abyssal plain


Several misleading stories have been circulating on the internet, claiming that the Pacific Ocean is dying because of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Among other “evidence,” these stories cite a recent MBARI study about deep-sea animals, with the headline, “Dead sea creatures cover 98 percent of ocean floor off California.”

These stories are false and misleading. In addition, there is absolutely no connection between MBARI's research findings and radiation from the Fukushima disaster.

Here is what MBARI's research actually showed:

  • MBARI research actually suggested that there were MORE algae and salps living in California surface waters during 2011 and 2012 than during the previous 20 years.

  • Salps are small gelatinous animals that eat single-celled algae. They are known to experience large blooms in their populations. Large populations of salps have been periodically documented in California waters since at least the 1950s.

  • Blooms of gelatinous animals (including salps) and single-celled algae are a common occurrence off the California Coast. They come and go, running their course when they use up their food and nutrients.

  • Animals and algae that live in the surface waters eventually die. If they are not eaten in surface waters then they sink to the deep sea. This is the main food source for deep-sea animal and microbe communities.

  • Soon after the salp bloom and die-off at the surface in 2012, the deep seafloor at the researchers’ study site was littered with dead salps. This was observed at one location, and salps were the only dead animals observed in large numbers.

  • There is no indication that any of the events documented in this study were associated with the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The dead salps MBARI researchers observed on the sea floor were a result of increased life in the surface waters, NOT a sign that the ocean is dying.

For more information, see MBARI’s news release on this research:

Additional rebuttals to this false story are posted on Deep-Sea News and BoingBoing

For details on this research, please see the original research article in the December 3, 2013 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Last updated: Jan. 06, 2014