About 2,500 seals have been found dead on the Caspian Sea coast in southern Russia. Authorities reported an initial number of 700, but this later rose to 2500. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list has included Caspian seals, the Caspian Sea’s sole mammals, as endangered animals since 2008. The deaths were caused by “natural factors,” Dagestan’s Ministry of Natural Resources said in a Telegram post. The ministry has expressed concern that there may be many more dead seals.
Zaur Gapizov, head of the Caspian Environmental Protection Center, said the seals died approximately two weeks ago and that there were “no signs of violent death, no remains of fishing nets”, as quoted by BBC. The Federal Fisheries Agency also did not immediately spot any pollutants.
Inspectors have been patrolling the coastline in search of more dead seals. Meanwhile, Caspian Environmental Center experts are analyzing samples from the dead seals to determine the cause of death.
The mass deaths come not long after more than 140 Caspian seals were discovered dead on the Kazakh beaches of the Caspian Sea earlier in November, according to KASPIKA, an agency that works towards the conservation of Caspian seals. The laboratory of the National Reference Center for Veterinary Medicine is examining biosamples from the incident.
Similar incidents have also occurred in the recent past. In 2020, thousands of dead seal pups washed ashore at Pelican Point peninsula, a Namibian beach known for its colony of seals and school of dolphins. Marine species on the coasts around Cape Town are also facing multiple crises. Over 200 seals were found dead along Western cape shores in 2021. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, the main cause of Cape Fur seals dying in Cape Town was malnutrition.
Caspian seals are at the top of the food chain and have no natural enemies as adults. They can grow to a length of more than 1.6 metres and a weight of up to 100 kilograms. But their population has suffered from overhunting, habitat degradation, climate change and industrial pollution. Around a century ago, the population of Caspian seals was more than a million. It is unconfirmed how many seals now live in the landlocked sea. According to the Caspian Seal Research and Rehabilitation Center, there are approximately 70,000 seals in the region. Regional fisheries, however, claim there are 270,000 to 300,000.