Onsite Coordinator: Raphaela Stimmelmayr
Offsite Coordinators: Joel Garlich-Miller (USFWS), Aleria Jensen (Alaska Marine Stranding Network/NOAA)
Collaborators: Ice Seal Committee, Walrus Commission, USFWS, NOAA/NMFS, Dr. Steven Raferty
Funding: Prescott Grant (NOAA), NSB
Project Objective: The NSB-DWM has been conducting beach surveys near Barrow for stranded marine mammals since the discovery of sick seals in the summer of 2011. These surveys were continued in the summer of 2012 and will continue in the summer of 2013 to follow up and assess the health of any stranded marine mammals, including ice seals.
What is an Unusual Mortality Event (UME)? Title IV of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA, 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) defines a set of multiple strandings to be part of an "Unusual Mortality Event" (UME) if it has the following characterisics:
- It is unexpected.
- It involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population.
- And, it demands an immediate response.
What is the benefit of an official UME declaration? Money from the Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Event Fund may be made available to help reimburse some of the "special costs" incurred during the investigation as specified in Section 405 of the MMPA and the National Contingency Plan for Response to Unusual Marine Mammal Mortality Events.
In late November of 2011, the NSB-DWM submitted a request for a formal consultation to the Working Group Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Event (WGMMUME) in response to the ongoing disease outbreak in Alaskan ice seals and Pacific walrus. This UME consultation package was developed in collaboration with many tribal, local, state and federal partners.
On December 21st, NMFS and USFWS followed the WGMMUME recommendation and officially declared the 2011 Northern Alaska Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event an UME. Since then, NOAA and USFWS have appointed NSB-DWM wildlife veterinarian and research biologist, Raphaela Stimmelmayr, as an Onsite Coordinator to oversee and administer the investigation. Joel Garlich-Miller (USFWS) and Aleria Jensen of the Alaska Marine Stranding Network (NOAA) have been appointed as offsite coordinators. Steven Raverty is the liaison to the WGMMUME and with Terri Rowles, head of the National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.
On the North Slope, if you find a marine mammal
that is not looking healthy or is acting strange, please contact:
North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management
at 907-852-0350 (days) or 907-750-5486 (evenings/weekends)
In the Bering Strait region, contact:
Eskimo Walrus Commission at 1-877-277-4392
Gay Sheffield (UAF-Marine Advisory Program) at 1-800-478-2202
From anywhere in the state of Alaska,
you can call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network
- May 2014 Update - NOAA/USFWS release - UME closes for Pacific walruses due to lack of new cases and Q&A Fact Sheet
- March 2013 Update - NOAA release - Update on the Northern Pinniped UME
- October 2012 Update- NOAA release - UME Questions and Answers fact sheet about Northern Pinnipeds UME (ice seals and walruses) on October 10, 2012.
- June 2012 Update - NOAA release - UME Questions and Answers fact sheet about Northern Pinnipeds (ice seals and walruses) on June 25, 2012.
- March 2012 Update - Northern Pinnipeds (Ice Seals and Walrus) Update: Unusual Mortality Event (UME) Investigations and Findings (NOAA, USFWS)
- February 2012 Update - Northern Pinnipeds (Ice Seals and Walrus) Update: Unusual Mortality Event (UME) Investigations and Findings (NOAA, USFWS)
- December 2011 Update - Deaths of Ringed Seals in Alaska declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) by NOAA on December 20, 2011; Walrus pending.
- November 2011 Update - NOAA 2011 Arctic Seal Disease Outbreak Fact Sheet, Updated November 22, 2011, Updated November 10, 2011
- October 2011 Update - Ringed Seals and Walrus
- September 2011 - Ringed Seals on the Beach
Garlich-Miller, J., Neakok, W., and Stimmelmayr, R. 2011. Field Report: Walrus Carcass Survey, Point Lay Alaska, September 11-15, 2011. Online
Stimmelmayr, R. 2013. Monitoring mortality and morbidity at coastal walrus haulouts. In Proc: Workshop on Assessing Pacific Walrus Population attributes from coastal haul outs. Eds. M.Robard and J.Garlich Miller. USFWS Administrative Report, R7/MMM 13-1.
Stimmelmayr, R. 2012. Disease symptoms seen at the Point Lay Haul out- Update on Cause. In Proc: Adapting to Climate Change: A community workshop on the conservation and management of Walruses on the Chukchi Sea Coast. Ed. J.Garlich Miller. USFWS Administrative Report R7/MMM 12-1.
Stimmelmayr, R. 2013. Update on a “New” Disease Syndrome in Ice Seals and Pacific Walrus in the Arctic, in: Proc. CAFF/Arctic council Report on Circumpolar Ringed Seal Monitoring Meeting, Tromso, Norway 2-3rd October 2012. Eds. Kit Kovacs and Christian Lydersen.
The testing for radiactivity as a causal factor in the 2011 Seal and Walrus UME was in response to hunters' concerns about the Fukushima incident after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The results of this study indicate that there is no indication of radionuclide contamination in seals in the Bering and Chukchi Seas at this time. The DWM continues to monitor for radionuclides in all subsistence species.
For more information on Radiation and Wild Food Safety, see this State of Alaska site.
This poster was presented at the 2014 Alaska Marine Science Symposium by Doug Dasher et al. The testing for radiactivity as a causal factor in the 2011 UME was in response to hunters' concerns about the Fukushima incident after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The results of this study indicate that there is no indication of radionuclide contamination in seals in the Bering and Chukchi Seas at this time. For more information on radionuclide testing and radiation click here.
Dasher, D., et al. 2014. 2011 Fukushima fallout: Aerial deposition on the sea ice scenario and wildlife health implications to ice-associated seals. Poster presented at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, Alaska, January 2014.