On Sunday, officials reported that approximately 2,500 seals had been found dead on the Caspian Sea coast in southern Russia. The exact cause of the mass die-off in the Russian province of Dagestan is unknown. However, experts believe it was due to natural causes.
Saturday, regional officials reported that they had found 700 dead seals on the coast. However, the Dagestan division of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment revised its statement later, saying that approximately 2,500 dead seals were found.
Zaur Gapizov is the head of the Caspian Environmental Protection Center. He issued a statement about the incident. Gapizov believes the seals likely died a couple of weeks ago. He noted that there were no indications they had been killed or trapped in fishing nets. The Federal Fisheries Agency’s experts inspected the coastline and collected data for laboratory research. However, they didn’t see any pollutants right away, reports NPR.
There have been several past occurrences where a great deal of seals died suddenly. However, they were usually chalked up to being natural causes. This year alone, Kazakhstan (a country situated on the Caspian Sea) has reported three such incidents.
The data surrounding the number of seals in the Caspian Sea is controversial, to say the least. The fisheries agency has stated that there are approximately 270,000-300,000 seals living in the Caspian, while the Caspian Environmental Protection Center claims this number is much lower at around 70,000. The Caspian seal is an endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Caspian seals are a smaller species of the marine mammal family
The Caspian seal is one of the smallest species in the earless seal family. It’s unique in that it’s only found near the brackish waters of the Caspian Sea. These seals can often be found not just along shorelines but also on any rocky islands or floating blocks of ice within the sea itself.
The seals are found in the Northern Caspian during winter and cooler months of spring and autumn. They migrate to the mouths of the Volga and Ural Rivers, as well as southern latitudes of the Caspian where deeper, cooler waters can be found when temperatures rise in summer and warmer parts of spring and autumn.
Data indicates the seals are most likely descendants of Arctic ringed seals that migrated to the area from the north at some point during an earlier era known as the Quaternary period. They became isolated in the landlocked Caspian Sea when large, continuous ice sheets melted.
These marine mammals are found in the Northern Caspian during winter and cooler months of spring and autumn. The migration to the southern part of the sea starts at the beginning of April with female seals that have pups, who are all hungry and eat fish from nets along the way.
Male mature seals in the northern Caspian Sea generally wait to finish moulting before leaving. In summer, they usually retreat to Apsheron’s western side to rest. The most popular spot used to be Ogurchinskiy Island in the east; however, by 2001, human activity had dwindled the pup population thereto less than 10.