More and more dead seals are washed up on the Russian shore of the Caspian Sea.

According to the Ministry of the Environment of the Republic of Dagestan, which is located on the northwestern shore of the largest inland body of water on earth, 2,500 of the dead marine mammals have been found in several coastal locations.

The search continues, but it is already clear that this is the worst mass extinction of the Caspian seal in the past ten years.

Frederick Smith

Political correspondent for Russia and the CIS in Moscow.

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The head of the Russian environmental supervisory authority, Svetlana Radionova, expressed a first guess as to what the seals could have died about two weeks ago: lack of oxygen.

There have been cases like this before, Radionova said on Monday on state television.

In 2020, for example, around 2,000 seals were found on the coasts of the Caspian Sea, in Dagestan and in the southern neighboring country of Azerbaijan, which had died due to hypoxia.

Caspian seal on "red list"

Corresponding changes have also been noticed in the tissue of dead seals.

According to Radionova, no traces of mechanical impact or fishing nets were found, nor was there any environmental pollution or poisoning of the animals.

Gas might have escaped.

We will be able to say more precisely at the end of the week.

Radionova promised that the "best specialists" would take care of the matter and that there would be a "round table".

Unlike other sad events, the subject is not taboo on Russian state television.

Rather, it shows images of dead seals.

Some lie lifeless on the sand, others are still gently swayed by the waves.

In between, people in neon yellow safety vests trudge around.

Radionova expressed concern that the Caspian seal, which is considered critically endangered and is on "red lists" of all five Caspian Sea riparian countries, was once again struck by a mass extinction.

Once upon a time there were said to have been more than a million Caspian seals.

But the animals were long hunted for their fur and fat.

According to environmentalists, they are still bothered by fishing today, sometimes by poaching for sturgeons.

Oil and gas production off the coast also disturbs their circles.

In addition, as a result of climate change, the ice on which the animals depend for reproduction in winter is receding, as photos of fluffy white young seals from the region show.

Environmentalists estimate that the total number of seals is now no more than 70,000.

They are calling for better monitoring of the population and a rehabilitation center in the republic to nurse injured and weak seals.