World

2,500 dead seals found on Russia's Caspian coast

About 2,500 seals have been found dead on the Caspian Sea coast in southern Russia, and it's not clear what killed them, officials said Sunday.

No sign they were killed by poachers, says head of environmental centre

Journalists and government workers walk near the bodies of dead seals on the shore of the Caspian Sea in Dagestan, southern Russia, on Sunday. (RU-RTR Russian Television/The Associated Press)

About 2,500 seals have been found dead on the Caspian Sea coast in southern Russia, officials said Sunday.

The authorities in the Russian province of Dagestan said it's still unclear what caused the animals' deaths, but they likely died of natural causes.

Regional officials initially said Saturday that 700 dead seals were found on the coast, but the Dagestan division of Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment later raised the figure to about 2,500.

Zaur Gapizov, head of the Caspian Environmental Protection Center, said the seals likely died a couple of weeks ago. He added that there was no sign that they were killed by poachers 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 deaths of seals were attributed to natural causes. Kazakhstan, which has a long Caspian coastline, reported at least three such incidents this year.

The data about the number of seals in the Caspian varies widely. The fisheries agency has said the overall number of Caspian seals is 270,000 to 300,000, while Gapizov's centre put the number at 70,000.

now