Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Mass Die-Offs of Marine Mammals Are on the Rise


August 17, 2020

This article is from Hakai Magazine, an online publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems. Read more stories like this at

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is a reminder of the devastation disease outbreaks can cause. But such disasters do not only affect humans. New research led by Claire Sanderson, a wildlife epidemiologist and immunologist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, shows that disease outbreaks among marine mammals have quietly been on the rise. Between 1955 and 2018, a sixth of marine mammal species have suffered a mass die-off caused by an infectious disease.

Reports of disease-induced mass die-offs in marine mammals have been increasing since at least 1996. This could be due in part to increased surveillance. However, it’s also likely that scientists are still underestimating the true numbers of outbreaks in these populations. Marine mammals travel great distances in remote parts of the oceans, and often the only indication that something has gone wrong is when carcasses start washing up on shore.


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