Over 50 dead seals, sea lions, whales, walrus recently stranded in Alaska — Dozens of seals suffering from baldness, skin sores — Experts: “Marine transported Fukushima radionuclides… may represent a new stressor to ecosystem”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
By Paul Martin

May 6th, 2014

Poster for Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Jan. 20, 2014: Based on modeled radionuclide concentrations the dose to Northern Pinnipeds on ice was less than the ERICA risk assessment no-effects level of 10 uGy/hr with the following caveats: 1) Source terms for the Fukushima nuclear accident release vary greatly creating uncertainty in the models. 2) Knowledge gaps exist on extrapolating radiation dose to marine mammals. 3) Exposure to hot particles was not addressed. 4) Cannot rule out that increased radiological exposure in combination with a mixture of other contaminants represented an immunotoxic and thyroid disease risk during the period the animals were living on the ice. 5) Ionizing radiation associated risk for skin defects (i.e. epilation, skin lesions) due to contact and external exposure can also not be excluded. *Marine transported Fukushima radionuclides entering the Bering and Chukchi Seas in the future may represent a new stressor to the ecosystem.

Nome Nugget, Jan. 2 2014: Hunters still report hairless seals — A Nome subsistence hunter reported the harvest of an oogruk showing symptoms of the disease that broke out in 2011 and left hundreds of seals hairless or dead. The breakout of the disease is still under federal investigation as an “unusual mortality event”. Symptoms of the disease included bald seals, skin sores and apathy.

NOAA, Feb. 2014: […] seals reported with abnormal hair growth and healing skin ulcers are likely survivors of the initial disease. Hunters may continue to see hairless seals during spring 2014 […] no specific infectious disease agent or process has been identified. This may suggest that the underlying cause of this disease is most likely complex, involving a variety of factors. […] Scientists are investigating the possibility that radiation could have been one of many factors […]

Nome Nugget, Apr. 10, 2014: [Gay Sheffield, Univ. of Alaska] has so far counted nine whale strandings, 25 dead walrus strandings, two sea lions and 18 seals. She also still collected data on Unusual Mortality Event suspected seals, showing hair loss, skin sores and delayed molt. Of those, she counted 10 spotted seals, eight ringed and six bearded seals. […] [Officials] heard and adopted a resolution […] that “the potential for pollution events includes oil spills, cargo or fuel spills, novel disease, invasive species, radiation […] contaminants which can impact wildlife and can potentially be transferred to consumers is of high concern.” The resolution demands […] research be conducted in the context of human health […]

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