Saturday, March 3, 2012
Swimming in sick seas
A number of news outlets picked up on the news that pathogens of terrestrial animals are killing ocean mammals: Iconic Marine Mammals Are 'Swimming in Sick Seas' of Terrestrial Pathogens
Parasites and pathogens infecting humans, pets and farm animals are increasingly being detected in marine mammals such as sea otters, porpoises, harbour seals and killer whales along the Pacific coast of the U.S. and Canada, and better surveillance is required to monitor public health implications, according to a panel of scientific experts from Canada and the United States.
Between 1998 and 2010, nearly 5,000 marine mammal carcasses were recovered and necropsied along the British Columbia and Pacific Northwest region of the U.S., including whales, dolphins and porpoises, sea lions and otters.
"Infectious diseases accounted for up to 40 per cent of mortalities of these marine animals," says Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist with the Animal Health Centre in the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, and an adjunct professor in UBC's Marine Mammal Research Unit.
"In many cases, the diseases found in these marine mammals have similar or genetically identical agents as those infecting pets and livestock. We don't yet know how these diseases are affecting the health of marine mammals" says Raverty.