Quantcast
Animals
Seal #108, left, and a small pup named "Premie" swim up to the edge of their pool for their 3 p.m. feeding at the Marine Mammals of Maine rehabilitation center on Aug. 14. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

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."

[Watch seals being rescued in Ireland.]

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."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Oceans
California restaurants will only be able to serve plastic straws like these upon request. Horia Varlan / CC BY 2.0

California Becomes First State to Regulate Plastic Straws

California became the first state in the U.S. to ban plastic straws in dine-in restaurants Thursday when Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to that effect, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The law, which will enter into force Jan. 1, prohibits restaurants from providing straws unless a customer requests one. It covers only sit-down eateries, not fast food restaurants, delis or coffee shops.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Giannis Giannakopoulos / YouTube

'Partying' Spiders Blanket Greek Beach on 1,000-Foot Cobweb

Arachnophobes beware. A shoreline by the Greek town of Aitoliko has been swamped by a mass of mating spiders and 1,000 feet of their cobwebs.

Earlier this week, a local named Giannis Giannakopoulos uploaded a YouTube video and posted several pictures of the spectacle on his Facebook page, showing shrubs, palm fronds and other greenery completely veiled by spider webs.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Frank Straub / EyeEm / Getty Images

Greenpeace Report: Europe Has 10 Years Left to Ditch Fossil Fuel Cars

Europe must phase out the sales of new gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars by 2028 if it wants to live up to its Paris climate agreement emissions-reduction pledges, according to new research by Germany's Aerospace Center.

Even conventional hybrid cars, which feature gasoline-powered engines, would have to disappear by the mid-2030s if Europe intends to fulfill its part of the Paris deal to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the Greenpeace-commissioned study.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
An ambulance crashed into a fallen tree from Storm Ali in Newcastle on Sept. 19. Owen Humphreys / PA Images via Getty Images

100 mph Winds Kill Two in First Named Storm to Hit UK and Ireland This Season

Storm Ali, the first named storm of the UK storm season, killed two and sent several to the hospital as winds of more than 100 miles per hour walloped Ireland, Scotland and Northern England Wednesday, The Guardian reported.

More than 250,000 homes and businesses in Ireland lost power and 30,000 lost power in southwest Scotland.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Oceans
Hawaii, Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina) with surface reflections. Robinson Ed / Perspectives / Getty Images

Hawaii's Cauliflower Coral Moves Toward Endangered Species Act Listing

Cauliflower coral, a bushy species in the Hawaiian Islands that has been devastated by ocean warming triggered by human-caused climate change, could soon get federal protection. The National Marine Fisheries Service Wednesday announced that listing the species may be warranted under the Endangered Species Act, based on a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
David Speier / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Journalist Dies in Clash Over Dirty Coal in Germany

By Andy Rowell

Over the last week, the German Police have deployed thousands of officers, backed up by water cannons and armored vehicles, to evict hundreds of climate activists trying to defend the last remnants of an ancient forest in Germany from being destroyed by RWE, which wants to expand the biggest open coal mine in Europe.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Flooded suburb of the city of Itacoatiara (Central Amazon region) in 2009. Jochen Schöngart, National Institute for Amazon Research

World's Largest River Floods Five Times More Often Than It Used to

Extreme floods have become more frequent in the Amazon Basin in just the last two to three decades, according to a new study.

After analyzing 113 years of Amazon River levels in Port of Manaus, Brazil, researchers found that severe floods happened roughly every 20 years in the first part of the 20th century. Now, extreme flooding of the world's largest river occurs every four years on average—or about five times more frequently than it used to.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
rotofrank / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Here’s What Agriculture of the Future Looks Like: The Multiple Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture Quantified

By Ricardo Salvador

At the Union of Concerned Scientists, we have long advocated agricultural systems that are productive and better for the environment, the economy, farmers, farmworkers and eaters than the dominant industrial system. We refer to such a system as our Healthy Farm vision. Based on comprehensive science, we have specified that healthy farm systems must be multifunctional, biodiverse, interconnected and regenerative.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!