At least 170 endangered Caspian seals washed up dead on the shores of the Caspian Sea in Russia’s republic of Dagestan, Russian researchers told AFP on Thursday.
The deaths may have been caused by “industrial pollution, fishing or poaching when seals get caught in the nets,” said Viktor Nikiforov of the Moscow Marine Mammals research center. “Maybe this is the consequence of climate change or several causes at the same time,” he added.
The Caspian Sea is surrounded by five countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan. The seal population of the Caspian Sea has suffered from over-hunting and the effects of industrial pollution and climate change for decades.
Experts say there are now about 70,000 Caspian seals, down from more than one million in the early 20th century. In December 2020, authorities reported the death of nearly 300 endangered Caspian seals on Dagestan’s Caspian shore.
Pollution from the extraction of oil and gas there and declining water levels due to climate change pose a threat to many animals and put the future of the sea itself at risk.
The UN Environment Programme has warned that the Caspian “suffers from an enormous burden of pollution”.
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