Dead seabirds are washing ashore in western Alaska again

June 28, 2018 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Scientists estimate that thousands of dead seabirds are washing up along the coasts of western Alaska.

Common murres, an abundant North Pacific seabird, have been found dead on shores from Shishmaref to St. Lawrence Island since last month, KTUU-TV reported Wednesday.

A dead bird has been examined at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s migratory bird office in Anchorage and more are being sent in to be tested, said Robb Kaler, a wildlife biologist for the service.


“The results come back pretty quickly. Currently, they determined the cause of death appears to be due to emaciation, starvation,” Kaler said.

Scientists are examining what led to the birds’ starvation and Kaler said there are likely multiple factors at the root of the problem.

“You’ve got birds that are starving, so we know why they’re dying — they’re dying of starvation,” Kaler said. “But the question is why are they not able to find food? What’s happening?”

Thousands of the birds were found dead along the Pacific coast following a massive die-off in 2015 and early 2016. Scientists pinned the cause on warm ocean temperatures that affected the birds’ food source. The problem was exacerbated by vicious winter storms.

Another factor could be neurotoxin poisoning from algal blooms, which travel through the food chain, Kaler said. The ocean temperatures could be causing the harmful algal blooms to flourish.


Information from: KTUU-TV,