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USFWS Believes Bering Sea Seabirds Died from Starvation

Map showing where the seabird die-off has been observed. Image-UWSFWS

Map showing where the seabird die-off has been observed. Image-UWSFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reporting that at least 800 carcasses of seabirds, that include Northern Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Shearwaters, Murres and Auklets have been observed on the beaches throughout the Bering Sea and Bering Straits since early August of this year.

“Dead and dying seabirds have been reported from Shishmaref, south to the Pribilof Islands. First responders in coastal communities, with the USFWS, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Ecosystem Conservation Office (ACSPI ECO), Kawerak, Inc., Alaska Sea Grant program and others” have participated in the count, the USFWS reports.

Short-Tailed Shearwater. Image-Melissa Good/COASST

Short-Tailed Shearwater. Image-Melissa Good/COASST

According to the bulletin release, necropsies on at least ten carcasses have been performed with no evidence of infecctious disease. Instead, it has been determined that the birds examined, had suffered starvation, and in their weakened state, drowned. Investigators determined the cause of death after observing that the birds were severely emaciated and had “empty stomachs and  inttestinal tracts, and little body fat.”

Although the cause of the starvation is currently unknown, it is suspected that this most recent die-off, like those of previous years, is connected to unusually warmer waters that are encroaching ever-further north.