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Hundreds of sea otters washing up dead or dying in Kachemak Bay, Alaska, USA

Sea Otters. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife photo)
Sea Otters. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife photo)
Scientists continue to see large numbers of dead or sick sea otters turning up in the Kachemak Bay region.
Officials with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service say the agency has received about 200 reports of sick or dead otters over the past couple of months.
They’ve teamed up with the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward and they’re running tests to try to find out the cause. In the meantime, they’re asking for the public’s help.
It’s Friday night and Marc Webber, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Homer, has already had two calls for sick otters.
“Well I just was out on the spit having dinner with my family and a call came in as I was coming into the station of two otters ashore on mariner this evening,” he said.
Webber is part of a group trained to respond to sick and injured marine mammals. He’s Deputy Refuge Manager for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge which runs the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitors center in Homer.
“And so I was able to get to one of them down below the rock wall along the spit road and that individual is in very bad shape,” Webber said. “It is in a somewhat depleted condition, but demonstrating something we’ve also seen a little bit of which is a set of neurological conditions where it was twitching.”
Webber and trained volunteers try to keep people away from sick otters and get a vet to euthanize them when necessary.
“We’re finding otters all over the Homer area,” he said. “They’re found from outer Bishop’s Beach all the way around the spit on both sides and around the shores of Mud Bay, so pretty wide spread.”
Otters play an important role in their ecosystem, Webber notes – so when something is going wrong with them, something is likely affecting the entire ecosystem.
Otters were nearly hunted to extinction during the fur trade of the 1700s and 1800s and suffered again after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
The sea otters in Kachemak Bay are part of a population that stretches from Cook Inlet to Prince William Sound. In the 1970’s they received protection through the Marine Mammal Protection Act and remain protected. At last count (2012), the Kachemak Bay otter population was around 5,900.
Cari Goertz is a veterinarian with the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. She’s been examining sick otters.
“This summer started off fairly typical with a couple of otter carcasses or few otter carcasses being found every week,” Goertz said. “However as the summer went on into august and September we were getting up over 20 carcasses or moribund animals each week.”
“And it’s in those animals that we’ve seen different presentations.”
She says they’ve been tracking a streptococcus illness in Kachemak Bay area otters for some time and those otters usually appear sickly and emaciated. But the otters that have died since August seem different.
“Most recently what we’ve seen more of is animals in a healthier condition that seem to have been taking care of themselves well but have died acutely and that has become more common in the ones that we’ve been seeing in the last couple of months,” Goertz said said.
If you see a beached live otter or a dead one, officials want to know about it. They’re asking people to call the Alaska SeaLife Center Stranded Marine Mammal Hotline. They say otters shouldn’t be approached because streptococcus related illness can be passed to humans. Dogs should also be restrained, as the illness can be passed to them too. In addition, a sick otter could get defensive.
Webber, with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Department in Homer says he’s responded to around 50 calls for dead and dying otters over the past couple of months, and what he’s seeing seems different than what he’s seen in the past.
“Something is hitting them harder and faster, in addition to the disease that we’re familiar with seeing, something else seems to be involved,” Webber said. “That’s just speculation, we don’t have any evidence yet, but that’s what we’re seeing on the beach.”
Officials with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska SeaLife Center say they’re waiting for lab tests to get back in the next few weeks.
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Thousands of fish, plus birds, otters and turtles dead due to Kerosene leak in Rome, Italy

A lightning flash, a small electric light dives into the water and fishing. Goes back on the perch, around dozens of fish move their tails on the water surface, bent on one side, with gills that are struggling to find the strength to oxygenate the body. Our skilled fisherman is back there, on the branch, but soon begins to have the first symptoms of intoxication. The plumage is switched off, the kerosene gobbled begins to burn the internal organs: after a while, it falls on the edge of the channel and dies. He was a kingfisher, a small colorful bird that lives in marshy places healthier and is the symbol of an environmental tragedy announced: that of Maccarese . It is the emblem of how there are no guarantees for the environment, for the citizens, for biodiversity, where there insist potentially polluting infrastructure like pipelines national.

We are only a few dozen kilometers north of Rome. Here the Venetians in the 20 reclaimed a vast marshy area, place of migrating birds. Today in this campaign will produce large quantities of fruit and vegetables intended for the markets of central and northern Italy. All around a network of canals that encourages resting, feeding and reproduction of many animals that resemble those territories as places historically dedicated to the journey, moving from Europe to Africa and vice versa. Upstream of this rich agricultural biodiversity and the environment is positioned a pipeline, from 2 meters in diameter, of hydrocarbons traveling for a length of 80 km, from Civitavecchia to Fiumicino . A tube bridge to allow planes of the international airport to fill their tanks of thousands of liters of kerosene.

November 9, there were two incidents, one in Palidoro and one in Maccarese , which caused huge spill of fuel. Probably more than 30,000 liters are finished in rio Three spouts. The alarm party late caused the poisoning of miles of canals that join with the river Arrochar to its mouth. We are in the natural state of the Roman coastline; Nearby complement the ecological corridor three oases in management to WWF. And it was the head of the environmentalist to ask for help to us of Lipu because the situation was precipitated. Volunteers needed immediately for groped to recover and rescue some animals still alive.

We arrived last Sunday: Saturday already were collected corpses of birds and mammals “burned” by kerosene , and we realized the gravity of what happened. Thousands of dead fish, mallards, moorhens, cormorants, herons, otters, turtles, shellfish, even a frog, all dead, impregnated with hydrocarbons. A nauseating smell that we took the head. Volunteers Lipu with courage and passion have followed prior to the north and then south to the main channel leading, after working hours, the dead animals for identification and seizure of ritual. The “angels” of Lipu came from Ostia, Civitavecchia, Rome. There were also experts in the wildlife rescue center Lipu of Rome.

Eni said that he had undergone an attempted theft of kerosene by unknown assailants . For now we have to believe it, but a petition signed by me and the president of the WWF will give more force to the prosecutor’s office which is investigating. Now it is necessary that the reclamation is done in a very short time and that Eni endeavors to damages to the town of Fiumicino to restore the ecological balance that was before the accident. The mayor of Fiumicino , after discontinuing hunting and Fishing in the municipal area and have banned the irrigation of fields with water from the drainage canals, is deploying all its institutional powers to defend his territory and we will be at his side to provide the most appropriate scientific expertise and professional .

Now we wait for the operator of the pipeline complete the removal of the kerosene before the bad weather aggravates the situation. Will start immediately after the claim for damages. In this case I hope that common sense triumphs and to avoid going to the civil court, where we know that a cause can last ten years. But Maccarese needs to start now, we can not wait that long. Meanwhile, today we are still in the field to look for injured animals. Yesterday a mallard and a small otter survived intoxication. A sign of hope for this nature too offended by us men.