Authorities reported Monday, October 12, 2020, that a new mass die-off of marine animals has been discovered off the coast of Russia's Kamchatka, where mysterious toxic pollution along a 40 km (25 miles) stretch recently killed 95 percent of seabed animals and caused health hazards among surfers since September.
Kamchatka Governor Vladimir Solodov said he received reports from scientists and witnesses of dead marine creatures off the coast, following the initial discovery last week.
Divers who studied the waters reported that 95 percent of seabed creatures were found dead, including sea urchins, octopi, seals, and starfish. Greenpeace Russia called the situation an "ecological disaster," which prompted authorities to investigate marine pollution.
"95 percent are dead," said Ivan Usatov of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve in a meeting with other scientists and Solodov. "Some large fish, shrimps, and crabs have survived, but in very small numbers."
Solodov noted that neighboring beaches were not affected, but the evidence showed that "the scale of the occurrence is extremely large."
He added that the deaths were "almost certainly linked to climate change and other polluting effects we as humankind cause to the Pacific Ocean."
"We can’t say that a local man-made object near [the port city of] Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky was the cause," the governor said.
Environmental disaster happened in Kamchatka.— Greenpeace Russia (@greenpeaceru) October 3, 2020
Experts found an excess of oil products (4 times), phenol (2.5 times) and other substances in water samples. The extent of the pollution has not yet been determined. Greenpeace requires immediate investigation. pic.twitter.com/UNVMQjaumi
On Monday, Russian Academy of Sciences vice president Andrei Adrianov theorized that the mass die-off was caused by toxins from an algae bloom.
This has been backed by leading Russian marine biologists, who took note of the presence of yellow foam covering the affected region seen from space.
In September, the toxic pollution was first reported by local surfers and swimmers, who suffered apparent chemical burns, vomiting, fever, coughing, and eye problems after going in the waters. Some developed lesions on their corneas and 11 people had to be taken to the hospital.
Solodov said he ordered authorities to conduct a comprehensive research project to examine the mysterious deaths. "We’ve encountered a new large-scale phenomenon that science has yet to comprehend."
Solodov has called for international researchers to join the investigation of the major ecological disaster.
"The Kamchatka region faces a challenging environmental situation which involves the mass death of marine animals and hydrobionts in Avacha Bay of the Pacific Ocean." He noted, "The causes of this phenomenon remain unclear."
"We invite you to consider the possibility of joining the research group and help us to identify the causes of the pollution of the Pacific Ocean near Kamchatka."
"The research group will work remotely and examine the available analyses results and hypotheses of our scientists."
Featured image credit: Anna Strelchenko/Greenpeace Russia