Recently, seals and sea otters in the Pacific ocean close to Alaska were found to be infected with phocine distemper virus, which has —up until recently— only affected harbor and grey seals off the coast of northern Europe. Now, these animals do not interact and are on the complete opposite side of the globe, yet the phocine distemper virus still spread. The spread of this virus has been a major concern to biologists and zoologists working in this field and has killed thousands of mammals over the last 10 years.
However, a 2019 study may have figured out the cause of the spread. According to the study in Scientific Reports, “Arctic climate change may also play an important role in marine mammal health. In addition to influencing animal nutrition and physiological stress, environmental shifts may drive exposure in marine mammal health. By altering animal behavior and removing physical barriers, loss of sea ice may create new pathways for animal movement and the introduction of infectious diseases into the Arctic.”
So, great we can add another thing to the list of problems that people destroying the environment have caused: the death of seals and sea otters. Something needs to be done about climate change and all of the issues that stem from it before it is too late.
Printed with permission from George Schellenger/Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation
Here, a GHRI researcher interacts with a tagged tiger shark