2,500 seals wash up dead on Russian Caspian Sea coast


Russia Dead Seals
In this image taken from footage provided by the RU-RTR Russian television on Dec. 4, journalists and Interdistrict Environmental Prosecutor’s Office employees walk near the bodies of dead seals on the shore of the Caspian Sea, Dagestan. (RU-RTR Russian Television via AP, File)

2,500 seals wash up dead on Russian Caspian Sea coast

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Russian authorities are investigating after at least 2,500 seals washed up dead on Russia’s Caspian Sea coast.

The number of deaths is particularly alarming because it represents a fraction of the only 270,000-300,000 that are estimated to exist in the wild, according to RIA Novosti, though other estimates put their true number at under 100,000. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, the country’s equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency, has taken samples of the carcasses and is expected to release its full findings by the end of this week. Preliminary findings suggest that the deaths are due to oxygen deprivation.

“We don’t see mechanical damage, we don’t see damage from nets or other fishing gear, so scientists are now engaged in an autopsy of the animals. According to preliminary data, we see traces of hypoxia, a change in the body of an animal caused by oxygen deprivation,” Svetlana Radionova, head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources, part of the Ministry of National Resources, told Russian media.

The scientists investigating speculated that a release of natural gas likely caused the mass string of deaths, but the investigation is ongoing.

The sudden deaths of such a large number of seals caused alarm in the Russian government, resulting in higher agencies taking over from the Federal Agency for Fishery.

“The Human Rights Council Commission on Environmental Rights will take control of the situation and will monitor the progress of the investigation into the causes of the mass death of the Caspian seals. We hope for a clearer result, and not for muddy comments about ‘natural factors,'” the commission said on its Telegram channel, according to RIA Novosti.


Caspian seals are unique, being the only sea mammal found in the Caspian Sea, the largest inland sea in the world, and aren’t found anywhere else, according to the Caspian Seal Project. Their number has declined by approximately 90% over the past hundred years, mostly due to over hunting by the Soviet Union.

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