Monday, April 16, 2012

Radiation tested for as a cause of Alaska seal deaths, truth likely much worse.- updated

Polar bears have symptoms of mystery disease: U.S. agency

Fri Apr 6, 2012 -(Reuters) - Symptoms of a mysterious disease that has killed scores of seals off Alaska and infected walruses are now showing up in polar bears, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said on Friday.

Nine polar bears from the Beaufort Sea region near Barrow were found with patchy hair loss and oozing sores on their skin, similar to conditions found in diseased seals and walruses, the agency said in a statement.

 "There's a lot we don't know yet, whether we're dealing with something that's different or something that's the same," he said.

Seals found in Alaska waters could soon be listed as endangered - Apr 15, 2012

Original Updated Post:

A number of cases of seal sicknesses (over 100) and deaths associated with skin ulcers/lesions, hair loss, respiratory problems and brain legions has been reported in Alaska, parts of Canada and the Russian Arctic.  Ringed seals are the primary victims but  Walrus is also appearing to have symptoms. This has prompted NOAA to issue a Unusual Mortality event.

Reported location of illness in Arctic marine mammals (ringed seals, spotted seals, bearded seals and walruses).
Map represents reports of illness cases from July to November 10, 2011. Created by M. Brubaker, Center for Climate and Health, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

NOAA Scientists seeking answers in skin lesion disease outbreak in ringed seals


Biopsies have been sent in for Radiation Testing (which was picked up by the anti nuke sensationalist movement immediately) but it is unlikely that is the cause as the seal's range is not in an affected area and ongoing radiation testing of fish in the entire basin is coming up negative.

Ringed Seal (Phoca hispida)
Range Map

Although no viral tests have come back positive a toxin or pathogen is the likely cause. Since the range is so large a pathogen is the most logical conclusion. (edit) Im also thinking now mercury toxicity could be a player if not the root cause.

Phocine Distemper was first noted in European seals in the late 90's then in east coast seals in my number one guess. Likely the clearing of the Northwest passage has assisted in its movement into the pacific theater. Its since been found in Alaska Sea Otters. In 2002 51% of the seal population in the north sea succumbed to the infection. In the other studies involving the virus testing was not 100 percent accurate, but like I said as no virus has been noted in this situation yet; it remains to be seen what exactly is the true cause in this evolving situation.

Ill update this to reflect the confirmed cause as soon as it is discovered. 

Ref -

Phocine Distemper in German Seals, 2002

Phocine Distemper Virus in Seals, East Coast, United States, 2006

Phocine Distemper Virus in Northern Sea Otters in the Pacific Ocean, Alaska, USA


Update -  2011 Northern Pinnipeds Unusual Mortality Event (UME)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.


Also Recently:


Iconic Marine Mammals Are 'Swimming in Sick Seas' of Terrestrial Pathogens

"Infectious diseases accounted for up to 40 per cent of mortalities of these marine animals,


Other Seal issue blogs here -

Influenza being connected with recent new england seal deaths.


1 comment:

  1. I guess it could also be a bacteria or a fungus. I very much doubt its radiation. It could be a heavy metal - there is mercury contamination in NW coastal Ak I believe. It doesn't look too good the way it seems to be spreading.