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Seal Strandings in Southern Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts

Contact:
Jennifer  Goebel (NOAA)
(978) 281-9175
(978) 290-0203 (Cell)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 12, 2018

For the latest numbers for this UME, which are updated weekly on Fridays, please visit our 2018 Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event along the Northeast Coast page.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

We continue to get reports of stranded seals, especially as the waves and wind from Hurricane Florence start to make themselves felt in our area.

Please continue to report seal strandings (new live or dead) to our hotline: 866-755-6622 (NOAA).

Preliminary numbers from July 1-September 10, 2018

Maine
July: 45 live, 64 dead
August: 59 live, 285 dead
September: 22 live, 106 dead

New Hampshire
July: 15 live, 27 dead
August: 18 live, 61 dead
September: 4 live, 12 dead

Massachusetts
July: 9 live, 9 dead
August: 3 live, 68 dead
September: 2 live, 29 dead

Total live: 177
Total dead: 661

Total: 838

Friday, August 31, 2018

NOAA declares Unusual Mortality Events for dolphins in Florida, seals in the Northeast.

Listen to the audio recording of the press call held on August 31.

Find out more about the Unusual Mortality Event for gray and harbor seals in the Northeast.

Preliminary Stranding Numbers for July 1-August 29, 2018

Maine
July: 44 live, 64 dead
August: 56 live, 266 dead

New Hampshire/Massachusetts
July: 17 live, 34 dead
August: 20 live, 98 dead

Total live: 137
Total dead: 462

Total: 599

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Preliminary Stranding Numbers for July 1-August 25, 2018

Maine
July: 44 live, 64 dead
August: 45 live, 214 dead

New Hampshire/Massachusetts
July: 17 live, 34 dead
August: 19 live, 95 dead

Total live: 125
Total dead: 407

Total: 532

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Seals in New England Test Positive for Avian Flu and Distemper

Some of the first batch of sampled seals that stranded in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts during the last several weeks have tested preliminarily positive for either avian influenza or phocine distemper virus. In addition, four seals so far have tested positive for both viruses. These are preliminary results based on the first set of samples analyzed by the Tufts University and University of California, Davis laboratories. We have many more samples to process and analyze, so it is still too soon to determine if either or both of these viruses are the primary cause of the mortality event.

Past seal mortality events in northeastern U.S. coast have been linked to avian flu and phocine distemper virus. However, avian flu and phocine distemper virus have also been detected at low levels in seals along the northeastern U.S. coast in non-outbreak years.

If you see a new sick or injured seal, please call the NOAA hotline: 866-755-NOAA (6622). Please be patient, as the stranding response teams are very busy.

For your safety and theirs, don’t touch a stranded seal, don’t allow pets to approach the seal, and observe the animal from a safe distance of 100 yards.

For more information on these viruses, please read our Frequently Asked Questions.

Preliminary Stranding Numbers for July 1-August 22, 2018

Maine
July: 43 live, 65 dead
August: 42 live, 190 dead

New Hampshire/Massachusetts
July: 17 live, 30 dead
August: 31 live, 96 dead

Total live: 116
Total dead: 351

Total:467

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Stranding Numbers for July 1-August 20, 2018

Maine
July: 43 live, 65 dead
August: 40 live, 170 dead

New Hampshire/Massachusetts
July: 17 live, 30 dead
August: 14 live, 48 dead

Total live: 114
Total dead: 313

Friday, August 17, 2018

An increase in both live and dead stranded harbor seals and gray seals continues along the coasts of Southern Maine, New Hampshire, and northern Massachusetts, with spikes in strandings over the last week. Currently more than 280+ seals have stranded live or dead in the region since June 1, 2018. Live seals are presenting in poor body condition with clinical signs of lethargy, coughing, sneezing, and seizing.

Samples have been collected and sent for testing for avian influenza and phocine distemper virus, results should be available next week from that testing. Previous seal mortality events have been caused by avian influenza and phocine distemper virus in the northeastern US but we do not know if these agents are the cause of the current strandings.

The response team, with input from the experts, is taking a tiered approach relying on pathology and epidemiology to guide the direction additional analyses may need to go as we rule in or out physical, chemical or biological factors that may be contributing to or causing these mortalities.

Many of the carcasses have been moderately to severely decomposed, which significantly reduces the ability to perform many analyses. Some sample analyses are not possible given the decomposition of the carcasses.

Further evaluations will continue over the next several weeks to months as new animals are found or new evidence determines the direction of the investigation. These rigorous investigations may take several more months to complete. However, NOAA and its federal and non-governmental partners will make every effort to make these data available to the public as soon as possible.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

There has been a high number of harbor seals stranding in southern Maine starting in July with increasing numbers stranding over the last week. We are now also seeing increasing numbers of stranded harbor seals in New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.

Cause of the recent strandings is unknown at this time. During elevated stranding events such as this, members of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network collaborate with NOAA to further investigate environmental conditions, common factors contributing to past stranding events, and any potential human impacts.

Samples from seals have been collected throughout the summer, and will continue to be collected as new cases are documented.They will be tested for possible pathogens that have caused seal die-offs in the past, including avian influenza, phocine distemper virus, and harmful algal blooms.

If you see a sick or injured seal, please call the NOAA hotline: 866-755-NOAA (6622). Please be patient, as the stranding response teams are very busy!

For your safety and theirs, do not touch a stranded seal, don’t allow pets to approach the seal, and observe the animal from a safe distance of 100 yards.

Stranding Numbers for July 1-August 15, 2018

Maine
July: 42 live, 61 dead
August: 28 live, 85 dead

New Hampshire
July: 14 live, 27 dead
August: 11 live, 27 dead

Total live: 95
Total dead: 200

More information:

Harbor seals
Unusual Mortality Events
Seal watching guidelines and information