Research in Action: Distemper in vulnerable marine mammals
Populations of northern sea otters and Steller sea lions in Alaska have declined drastically over the past 30 years. The ice seal population is also being evaluated. Phocine distemper virus (PDV) has caused massive harbor seal deaths in the Atlantic Ocean, and with Foundation funding researchers recently identified PDV as the cause of sea otter deaths in Alaska. This was the first confirmation of PDV in marine mammals in the Pacific Ocean. The researchers will further examine the association of PDV with recent sea otter deaths and determine the ongoing presence of this pathogen in Steller sea lions, harbor seals and ice seals in Alaska. Evaluating the role of distemper in marine mammal deaths is critical because a new outbreak could devastate the recovery efforts of already declining and vulnerable Arctic marine mammals.
Photo courtesy of Tracey Goldstein; this photo was collected while working under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act by Scientific Research Permit No. 782-176 for Ribbon seals issued to The National Marine Mammal Laboratory’s Polar Ecosystems Program.
Posted by MAFon June 3, 2011. Permalink