(CNN) – Along the shores of Northern California mussels are frying to death thanks to the hot summer temperatures. Jackie Sones, a research coordinator at Bodega Marine Reserve, has worked at Bodega Bay for 15 years. She has seen similar cases before where small patches of mussels die off due to heat, but has never witnessed something this extensive.
“When I was approaching the field site, I could see right away that hundreds of mussels were dead,” Sones told CNN on Monday. Her surveys show that tens of thousands of mussels are dead along the shore.
When mussels are alive and healthy, their shells remain pressed together. When a mussel dies, those shells open up, exposing the internal tissue or an empty shell.
Mussels start to struggle physically when temperatures reach 90 degrees, according to Sones. In the case of these mussels, she believes they could have experienced temperatures closer to 100 degrees.
California experienced a record breaking heat wave in June, with temperatures in the northern part of the state reaching triple digits. On June 10 and 11, the high temperature in Santa Rosa — 20 miles from Bodega Bay — was 100 degrees. The state issued a Flex Alert that day calling for voluntary electricity conservation.
Flex Alerts are only issued when outages are plaguing the electricity grid or temperatures are continuously high, according to the California Independent Systems Operator Corporation.