Pacific seals at risk as Arctic ice melt

epa06793113 Two seal pups named Pauli and Katrin are waiting for the feeding at the shelter for abandoned seals in Norddeich, northern Germany, 08 June 2018. The shelter houses pups that were found along North Sea beaches. After being nursed for about 63 days, the animals are released back into nature. In 2017, 163 animals were fostered in the station and released back into nature. EPA-EFE/DAVID HECKER

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A potentially deadly disease affecting marine mammals, including seals and sea otters, has been passed from the North Atlantic Ocean to the northern Pacific thanks to the melting of the Arctic sea ice.

Experts have long been concerned that sea ice melting in the northern oceans, caused by global climate heating, could allow previously geographically limited diseases to be transmitted between the two oceans.

Now scientists believe they have identified how an outbreak of distemper, similar to that suffered by dogs, was passed from northern seal populations to Alaskan seals and sea otters.

Hocine distemper virus, or PDV, has long been a threat to seal populations in the northern Atlantic, along with several strains of influenza, but had not previously been identified in the Pacific.

The new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, based its conclusions on samples taken from seals, sea lions and sea otters in Alaska between 2001 and 2016, finding that PDV had become entrenched in Alaskan waters.

Via The Guardian

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