The cause of death could be ‘industrial pollution, fishing or poaching,’ the researchers said.
At least 1,050 endangered seals have died off the coast of the Caspian Sea in Russia’s Dagestan province over the past few days, researchers say.
“These are the dead animals we’ve seen, photographed, and the ones whose GPS adjustments we’ve mentioned,” Viktor Nikiforov of the Marine Mammal Research Center in Moscow told AFP on Thursday.
Images shared with AFP show several seals on the beach washed away.
“Industrial contamination, phishing or being caught in nets can lead to poaching,” Nikiforov said.
“Perhaps it could be the result of climate change or different causes at the same time,” he added.
He said it would take a year of “serious surveillance” to properly identify the cause of the disaster.
According to researchers, the seals were found about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Dagestan’s capital, Makhchakala, and others floated 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the city.
Contacting AFP, the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency in the North Caucasus said it had sent inspectors to handle the new figures.
Russia’s Investigative Committee to Investigate Significant Crimes says it is investigating the incident.
The Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland water, is bounded by five countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan.
The seal population of the Caspian Sea has been suffering from excessive erosion and industrial pollution for decades.
Experts say there are now about 70,000 Caspian seals from more than a million in the early twentieth century.
Pollution from oil and gas extraction, including declining water levels due to climate change, has become a threat to many species and puts the future of the oceans at risk.
The United Nations Environment Program has warned that the Caspian is “suffering from a huge burden of pollution”.
In December 2020, authorities reported the death of about 300 endangered seals off the Caspian coast of Dagestan.