FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has declared an Unusual Mortality Event for three species of seals in Alaska. This event is declared when a significant number of a species is found dead or stranded.
Starting from June of last year, NOAA has reported 282 seal deaths in the Bering and Chukchi seas. The three species of seals are bearded, ringed, and spotted. Both ringed and bearded seals are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 151 of the seals reported were either bearded or ringed. That number may be higher as 91 of the reported seals remain unidentified.
Barbara Mahoney, a Biologist with NOAA, says the agency will be focusing on why these deaths occurred.
"We'll be collecting information to help us better determine the health of these animals," said Mahoney. "That would also allow us to understand better what's going on in their environment; whether its food related, whether it's ice or lack of ice related, whether it's both, whether it's something else going on."
Mahoney says that tissue samples are important in helping to determine if the animal was healthy before death. She added that tissue samples are only valuable if the animal died recently, adding that not many samples were collected this year.
If someone sees a seal or other marine mammal that is dead, sick or injured, NOAA encourages them to report it at (877) 925-7773.
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