98 Percent of Pacific Ocean Floor Covered in Dead Creatures: Climate Change Likely, Study Says

January 5, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

A series of articles published in the last month–which have been heavily shared on Facebook–imply that the aftermath of Fukushima Daiichi disaster has left 98 percent of the Pacific Ocean covered with “dead sea creatures.” However, these articles–published on more than a few conspiracy websites–cite a National Geographic report for the data, but it makes no mention of the 2011 Japanese nuclear disaster.

The articles–including one from Activist Post–say that “one area of the Pacific Ocean floor was 98 percent covered by decomposing sea creatures in July 2012. But in March 2012, only 1 percent of that same section of the Pacific Ocean floor was covered by dead sea creatures.” The articles then suggest that the Fukushima disaster might be reason why.

They cite a National Geographic report, which itself cites a November study published in the “ roceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

However, the National Geographic article makes no mention of Fukushima, meaning that references to the earthquake-triggered Japanese nuclear plant disaster in 2011 may not be entirely accurate, and the references could even be misleading.

“In March 2012, less than one percent of the seafloor beneath Station M was covered in dead sea salps. By July 1, more than 98 percent of it was covered in the decomposing organisms, according to the study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” the National Geographic report states. “The major increase in activity of deep-sea life in 2011 and 2012 weren’t limited to Station M, though: Other ocean-research stations reported similar data.”

It adds that climate change–not Fukushima–is the “leading contender” for the increases in 2011 and 2012.

Christine Huffard, a marine biologist with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, noted that such spikes are part of a long-term trend that scientists have not yet observed.

In an abstract, the study she worked on points to climate change.

“Global warming is now a well-documented phenomenon that is influencing every aspect of our world, from increased storm intensity to melting of polar ice sheets and rising sea level. The impact of such changes in climate is least known for the deep ocean, which covers over 60% of the earth’s surface,” it reads.