In three days, 30 dead seals have been found on beaches in southern Maine, alarming beachgoers and scientists who cannot explain why.
On Monday, 11 seals were found on beaches in Saco.
“It’s heartbreaking because everybody loves seals,” said Noah Fahy, 13, of Asheville, North Carolina.
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It’s his first time visiting Kinney Shores beach in Saco, and he won’t soon forget the sight of several deceased seal pups.
“It makes me think there might be something, like a predator or bacteria in the water,” Fahy said.
Scientists at The Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) say the seals they have examined did not show any obvious signs of injury.
“These animals didn't all die at the same time,” said Executive Director Lynda Doughty. “There's different age classes, different decomposition levels, so right now I don't feel like there's a high concern for people not to be going in the water.”
Doughty said her group will be working with scientists from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), performing necropsies, and testing seal samples for bacteria and biotoxins like red tide.
“[The seals] are eating the same things that we're eating, so they're really great bioindicators of something that may be going on,” she said.
Staff and financial resources at MMoME have already been stretched thin this summer. Doughty said they are responding to a much higher number of sick, stranded, and deceased seals this year compared to last.
“We have not slept or gotten any rest,” she said. “Our whole team is out responding to animals. We want to get to the result of why these animals aren’t making it.”