Saturday, January 21, 2012

UPDATE re: Deaths of ringed seals in Alaska


update Feb 17: whats up: update on diseased seals: Preliminary Assessment of Radionuclide Exposure
No radiation levels were found in these samples that would directly cause the symptoms seen in the pinnipeds. Test results show radiation levels are within the typical background range for Alaska.

on TUESDAY, JANUARY 17 i said:
" i have requested updates from the staff of the marine mammals division "
- i have now received some replies from NOAA and UA Fairbanks - and i have subscribed to the NOAA list-serve for this topic (see UPDATES Jan 20 & Feb 8 below)

Seals and walruses suffering from this disease have skin sores, usually on the hind flippers or face, and patchy hair loss. Some of the diseased mammals have exhibited labored breathing and appear lethargic. Scientists have not yet identified a single cause for this disease, though tests indicate a virus is not the cause.
NOAA News Release: Deaths of ringed seals in Alaska declared an unusual mortality event; walrus pending | December 20, 2011

Since mid-July, more than 60 dead and 75 diseased seals, most of them ringed seals, have been reported in Alaska, with reports continuing to come in. During their fall survey, scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also identified diseased and dead walruses at the annual mass haul-out at Point Lay.
Are seal deaths a result of Fukushima nuclear catastrophe radiation poisoning? - they could be.

it appears possible that these seals may have been poisoned outright, or perhaps exposure to radioactive pollution is the cause of secondary infections or other complications...

"Walruses and ringed seals in Russia, and ringed seals in Canada, have reportedly suffered similar symptoms. While it is not clear if the disease events are related, the timing and location of the disease suggests the possibility of transmission between the populations, or shared exposure to an environmental cause..."

what next: Deaths of ringed seals in Alaska | Fukushima | Fish Eaters | Nanuuq's Prey: Ice Seals

UPDATE Feb 8, from NOAA's NMFS

"Thank you for your interest in this topic. As you know, NOAA is working collaboratively with many marine mammal experts throughout Alaska and the United States, as well as with a number of international scientists on this Unusual Mortality Event. We just posted an update at our website for this disease:

"Our team continues to test for a wide variety of possible causes and contributing factors such as bacterial, viral, fungal or toxic agents. In response to your question about possible link to the Fukushima nuclear event, our scientists believe this is highly unlikely. However, we do have scientists at two separate labs analyzing tissue samples for the possibility of radiation exposure. This is a rather complicated process, which includes drying the tissue samples by a particular method before radiation testing can be conducted--which explains the length of time involved in conducting these tests." - Public Affairs Officer, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Region - - ( thank you! )


so far it appears that the NOAA press release of December 20 is still current with no new info available regarding the cause of the disease. radiation testing is underway. i have received the following via email:

"The NOAA press releases are the most recent information on the diseased seals. News articles also reported on lack of a Fukushima signal in air filter surveys. WE have some tissue for analysis of radioactivity, but those results will not be available for at least a couple of months." -

"...have just returned from the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage and there were a number of presentations on the topic of the seal disease outbreak in the Arctic. It appears that the number of cases is going down, but it is unclear if this is due to a decrease in the actual disease outbreak or a lack of harvest during the winter months by subsistence hunters. Thus far all tests have been negative, so a cause has not yet been established. There a several analyses still pending."

"If you are interested in updates, NOAA has a listserve right now where information on the disease outbreak is being distributed." -

Send a blank email to:

special thanks to those at NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, and Institute of Marine Sciences at UAF who have replied to my queries

updates will be posted as possible

much more at:
what next: Deaths of ringed seals in Alaska | Fukushima | Fish Eaters | Nanuuq's Prey: Ice Seals


via Center for Biological Diversity

NOAA seeks delay in decision on listing ringed, bearded seals; will review ribbon seals

The Republic, December 12, 2011

NOAA seeks delay in decision on listing ringed, bearded seals; will review ribbon seals
By Dan Joling, The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The federal government will delay a decision on listing two northern seals as threatened species because of climate change but will take another look at the status of a third seal it previously rejected.

The fisheries section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed Monday it is seeking a six-month delay in deciding the status of ringed seals and two populations of bearded seals. NOAA Fisheries also will begin a new status review of ribbon seals.

All three species use sea ice to birth pups.

A spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned to list the seals, criticized the extension.

"While we're certainly happy the ribbon seal is getting a second chance at protection, there is no excuse for the delay in protecting the ringed and bearded seals," said Brendan Cummings by email. "No amount of new research or analysis over the next six months is going to change the fact that the Arctic is melting, that these species need sea ice to survive, and — absent rapid and substantial cuts in greenhouse emissions — we're headed to an ice-free Arctic."

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for ringed and bearded seals in 2008, and when the agency missed deadlines, sued to force a decision.

NOAA Fisheries a year ago proposed listing ringed seals in the Arctic Basin and the North Atlantic and two populations of bearded seals in the Pacific Ocean because of projected loss of sea ice. For ringed seals, the proposal also cited the threat of reduced snow cover because of climate warming.

A final decision was due Saturday. NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Julie Speegle said by phone the agency is extending the final determination because of "disagreement over analysis of model projections of future sea ice habitat."


With their backward-turned rear flippers and blubbery bodies, Arctic pinnipeds like the bearded, ringed and spotted seals can look clumsy — though charming — as they wriggle across the ice. But in the ocean, where they spend much of their time, they’re as graceful and athletic as can be. Still, no seal can always be in the water; Arctic seals need the ice’s solid surface to carry out basic survival activities, from resting to molting to raising young. So as sea ice dwindles due to global warming, so does the hope for these seals’ long-term survival.

Winter sea ice in the Bering, Okhotsk and Barents seas — prime habitat for bearded, ringed and spotted seals — is projected to decline by at least 40 percent by midcentury. To make sure these beautiful mammals have ice on which to haul out, in May 2008 the Center filed a scientific petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service requesting that all three species be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. A few months later, the Fisheries Service reacted positively to the petition, announcing it would decide whether the seals merit federal protection by May 2009, and after we sued, in 2010 the Fisheries Service finally proposed the bearded and ringed seals for protection. Unfortunately, the spotted seal was denied those protections in the United States, granted safeguards only in China and Russia.

Global warming is scary news for seals in many more ways than one. Besides degrading and eliminating necessary sea-ice habitat, warming depletes their prey, makes them more vulnerable to predators and disease, and leads to increased shipping activity (which brings with it even more dangers). Add to all this the ever-increasing threats of oil and gas development, hunting, pollution and commercial fishery bycatch, and the implications are overwhelming. All three of these Arctic seals need federal protection based on the threat of global warming alone.

Center for Biological Diversity
The Center for Biological Diversity works through science, law and creative media to secure a future for all species, great or small, hovering on the brink of extinction.

much more at:
what next: Deaths of ringed seals in Alaska | Fukushima | Fish Eaters | Nanuuq's Prey: Ice Seals

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