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Environmental tragedy: Mass deaths of Caspian seals

21 February 2023 12:53 (UTC+04:00)
Environmental tragedy: Mass deaths of Caspian seals
Sabina Mammadli
Sabina Mammadli
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Over the recent months, reports of mass deaths of the Caspian seals have hit the media headlines of many Caspian Sea littoral nations.

The lion's share of the deaths was registered on the coast of the Caspian Sea in Dagestan, where up to 2,500 dead seals were found. As early as December, a total of 17 seals were found dead on the Azerbaijani coast, specifically in the direction of the Istisu settlement and Xacmaz District’s Tikanlioba, Seyidli, and Nabran villages.

Besides, over 140 Caspian seals were found dead on the Kazakh beaches of the Caspian Sea earlier last year.

In this regard, Azerbaijan’s Food Safety Agency published the results of the monitoring conducted by the agency and specialists from Azerbaijan’s Agriculture and Ecology Ministry in the coastal zones of Baku and Sumgayit, Khizi, Shabran, Lankaran, Astara, Neftchala and Salyan Districts to study the causes of the deaths of the sea animals.

Samples of pathological material collected from the remains of the seals were studied in the laboratory of the Institute of Food Safety of Azerbaijan, and no pathogens of infectious diseases were found.

According to information disseminated by Rosprirodnadzor, the cause of death of the seals is presumed to be natural gas emissions that caused hypoxia in seals.

Researchers from the Moscow State University’s Geography Faculty also suggested that the reason for the death of seals is methane poisoning, formed as a result of seismic activity. An official statement on the reasons for the death of seals based on the results of laboratory studies conducted in a neighboring country has not yet been made public.

Similarly, leading Researcher of the Hydrobiological Laboratory of the Institute of Zoology Suleyman Suleymanov said that in the summer months, Caspian seals live in the waters of the Absheron Peninsula, and in November-December, they gather in flocks for breeding in the Russian waters of the northern Caspian.

“Presumably, the reason for the mass death of the Caspian seals may be severe pollution of the water of the rivers flowing in these territories. And another reason could be that fishermen use explosive devices during fishing,” he said.

The academician underlined that the observations testify to the process of severe pollution of the Caspian Sea over the past ten years due to the acceleration of oil and gas operations.

Caspian seals, the only mammals found in the Caspian Sea, have been classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list since 2008.

According to the IUCN, the Caspian seal population has suffered from overhunting, habitat degradation, and climate change.

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Sabina Mammadli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @SabinaMmdl

Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz

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