At least 170 endangered seals have washed up dead over the course of several days on the shores of the Caspian Sea in Russia’s republic of Dagestan, according to researchers, APA reports citing AFP news agency.
“These are the dead animals that we saw, photographed and whose GPS coordinates we noted,” Viktor Nikiforov of the Moscow Marine Mammals research centre told the AFP news agency on Thursday.
Images shared with the AFP showed several seal carcasses washed up on the beach.
The deaths may have been caused by “industrial pollution, fishing or poaching when seals get caught in the nets”, Nikiforov said.
“Maybe this is the consequence of climate change or several causes at the same time,” he added.
He said that it would take a year of “serious surveillance” to precisely identify the cause of the disaster.
According to researchers, the seals were found about 100km (62 miles) south of Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, and others washed up 50km (31 miles) north of the city.
Contacted by AFP, the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency in the North Caucasus said it had dispatched inspectors to carry out a new count.
The Investigative Committee, which probes significant crimes in Russia, said it was looking into the incident.