New England Seal Die-Off Could be Linked to Chemical Pollution
Researchers think a mysterious die-off of seals along the Maine coast could be linked to chemical pollution, the Portland Press Herald reported Sunday.
More than 400 dead or stranded seals have washed up on the Maine coast so far this year, more than in any of the past seven years, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) statistics.
The immediate cause of the die-off is not yet known, but marine biologist Susan Shaw told the Portland Press Herald it could be related to toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), which are found in high quantities in Maine harbor seals and make it harder for marine mammals to fight off disease.
"We find this in young animals. They are immune-suppressed from birth," she said. "When some pathogen comes along like this, they are very susceptible to becoming very sick and dying very quickly."
More than 130 seal deaths have been reported in Maine in the past 30 days, and the die-off is spreading south, with 26 dead seals reported in New Hampshire and Massachusetts in July and 25 in August so far, NBC Boston reported Aug. 17.
"It's significantly more than we should expect to see for those states this time of year," NOAA greater Atlantic regional spokesperson Jennifer Goebel said. "We aren't seeing any external injuries. There have been reports of coughing, sneezing, and lung issues."
NOAA researchers are testing to see if Avian flu or phocine distemper might be the culprits. Initial results should be ready this week.
Out of concerns the die-off might be caused by an infectious disease, NOAA has asked the non-profit Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) to stop taking in live, stranded seals out of fear of infecting healthy animals.
Before the order, the group was rehabilitating some of the still-living seals at their Harpswell, Maine center.
MMoME has been on the front lines of the mysterious, lethal event, responding to 100 dead seals on the beaches south of Portland and in Casco Bay just last week, MMoME Executive Director Lynda Doughty told the Portland Press Herald.
Doughty said that spring and summer are typically dangerous times for seals, since young animals are trying to survive on their own for the first time, adults are molting and they are more likely to be struck by boats. But Maine usually sees around 38 dead seals in August, Goebel told NBC Boston, not more than 100.
"Having a hundred since Sunday is not normal," Doughty told the Portland Press Herald. "For us, July seemed to be pretty steady. Once August hit our numbers kept rising, rising, rising."
Fast and Furious Star Joins Sea Shepherd to Show Impact of Climate Change on Baby Seals https://t.co/fMTJ0OUm2c @1World1Ocean— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1491011711.0
The night sky has a special treat in store for stargazers this winter solstice.
- NASA Satellites Enable Scientists to Observe Climate Change ... ›
- Why Scientists Are Searching for Life in 'Alien Oceans' - EcoWatch ›
- To Save Endangered Species, Scientists Point Stargazing Software ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dena Jones
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was sued three times this past summer for shirking its responsibility to protect birds from egregious welfare violations and safeguard workers at slaughterhouses from injuries and the spread of the coronavirus.
By Julia Conley
Conservation campaigners on Thursday accused President Donald Trump of taking a "wrecking ball" to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as the White House announced plans to move ahead with the sale of drilling leases in the 19 million-acre coastal preserve, despite widespread, bipartisan opposition to oil and gas extraction there.
The Sheenjek River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Alexis Bonogofsky / USFWS
- Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Ban Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ›
- Bank of America Promises It Won't Fund Arctic Drilling - EcoWatch ›
- Trump's Drilling Leases on Public Lands Could Lead to 4.7B Metric ... ›
- Trump Administration's Alaska Oil and Gas Lease Sale a 'Major Flop ... ›
- Will Oil Companies Drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ... ›
Hot, dry and windy conditions fueled a wildfire southeast of Los Angeles Thursday that injured two firefighters and forced 25,000 to flee their homes.
- 'Explosive' Southern California Lake Fire Spreads to 10,000 Acres ... ›
- A Gender-Reveal Party Started a Wildfire That Burned Nearly ... ›
- Wildfire in LA Burns 7,000 Acres During Record-Setting Heat Wave ... ›
The climate crisis already has a death toll, and it will get worse if we don't act to reduce emissions.
- 'Every Child Born Today Will Be Profoundly Affected by Climate ... ›
- Coronavirus Response Proves the World Can Act on Climate Change ›
- 5 Things About Climate Change and Coronavirus From WHO ... ›