A major marine heatwave off the southern coast of New Zealand has caused a mass bleaching of sea sponges native to those waters.
This is the first time such a mass bleaching event has been seen in New Zealand, according to Victoria University of Wellington oceanographer James Bell, who told the Independent:
“This could be the start of something really, really bad for other ecosystems.”
The bleachings were seen in Breaksea Sound and Doubtful Sound fjords near Fiordland, according to reports.
Sea temperatures in the area were up to five degrees warmer than normal, according to scientist Rob Smith:
“What we’ve seen this summer is the strongest marine heatwave on the west coast of the South Island in 40 years.”
(Featured image credit: Dr. Valerio Micaroni/Francesca Strano/Victoria University of Wellington)