MOSCOW (AP) – About 2,500 seals have been found dead on the Caspian Sea coast in southern Russia, officials said on Sunday.
Authorities in the Russian province of Dagestan said it was unclear why the mass die-off happened but that it was likely due to natural causes.
Regional officials initially reported on Saturday that 700 dead seals were found on the coast, but the Dagestan division of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment later raised the figure to about 2,500.
Caspian Environmental Protection Centre head Zaur Gapizov said in a statement that the seals likely died a couple of weeks ago. He added that there was no sign that they were killed or caught in fishing nets.
Experts of the Federal Fisheries Agency and prosecutors inspected the coastline and collected data for laboratory research, which didn’t immediately spot any pollutants. Several previous incidents of mass seal deaths were attributed to natural causes. Kazakhstan, which has a long Caspian coastline, reported at least three such incidents this year.
Data about the number of seals in the Caspian vary widely. The fisheries agency has said the overall number of Caspian seals is 270,000-300,000, while the Caspian Environmental Protection Centre put the number at 70,000.