Venomous Sea Snakes Wash Up on Southern California Beach

In yet another sign of an increasing El Nino effect — that or total Armageddon — poisonous sea snakes have washed up on Southern California beaches near Oxnard. 

Marine biologists believe the yellow-bellied sea snakes, which normally limit their habitat to the warmer sections of the Pacific and Indian oceans, but because of increasing ocean temperatures further north, the snakes have come to California.

Scientists this year have described a “warm blob” of unusually warm water across the Pacific Ocean. Warmer ocean temps have had profound effects on marine life, including increased shark activity, a sea lion die-off earlier in the year, yellowtail and blue fin tuna sticking around longer and other observable effects. And now sea snakes.

Bob Forbes, a surfer in Ventura County who spotted the snake on the beach, told CNN he feared children might come in contact with it so he placed it in a 5-gallon bucket. The venom in a yellow-bellied sea snake otherwise known as pelamis platura is said to be extremely potent and can cause skeletal damage. 

“It looked lethargic when I approached,” Forbes told CNN. “I touched it lightly and it started to move.”

The discovery of the these snakes so far north is extremely rare, Greg Pauly, a curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles told CNN. The last sea snakes in California washed ashore in 1972 in Orange County, about 100 miles south of Ventura. 

“It was the northernmost sea snake ever documented in the Pacific Coast of North America,” he told CNN.

Climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association continue to put the likelihood of a severe El Nino as “significant and strengthening.” Scientists have observed the warmest ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean in decades. During an El Nino period winds that typically confine those warm waters to the south slow down significant and may even reverse course, sending those warm currents north. 

Photo credit: Heal the Bay