Black Sea dolphin deaths could be linked to Russia-Ukraine war

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Black Sea dolphin deaths could be linked to Russia-Ukraine war

An alarming number of dolphins have been washing up dead on the shores of the Black Sea, and scientists believe the use of military sonar technology linked to the Ukraine war is the likely culprit.

Between February and mid-May, more than 100 dead dolphins were discovered on the Turkish coast alone, in what Turkish Marine Research Foundation (Tudav) described as “an extraordinary increase,” reported the Guardian.

Dolphins also have been turning up dead along the coasts of Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine.

Ivan Rusev, an environmental scientist at Ukraine’s Tuzly Estuaries National Nature Park, told the New York Times that data collected by his organization since the start of the war, now in its fourth month, suggested that as many as several thousand dolphins had been killed in the region.

“Some of the dolphins had burns from bomb or mine explosions and they could no longer navigate and of course could not look for food,” he said.

The Black Sea, which is home to more than 250,000 dolphins, has been the site of intense military activity, with at least 20 Russian navy ships blockading all Ukrainian ports to prevent grain exports, since the outbreak of the war on Feb. 24.

Dolphins migrating from Marmara sea to Black sea appear in #Istanbul's Halic, Turkey during the spring season in Turkey on May 26, 2020.
More than 100 dolphins have been found dead along the Black Sea on Turkey’s coastline since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Erhan Sevenler/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A one-day-old unnamed dolphin calf, top right, plays with its mother Dolly in the dolphinarium of Black sea's town of Varna some 450 kms. (280 miles) east of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2008.
Approximately 250,000 dolphins live in the Black Sea.
AP Photo/Petko Momchilov

Researchers suspect that noise pollution from the warships’ powerful sonar devices could be interfering with dolphins’ echolocation, which is vital to their ability to find their way and feed.

Pavel Goldin, a marine biologist specializing in dolphins at the Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology in Ukraine, told NBC News that having been exposed to ships’ low-frequency sonar, dolphins become disoriented and cannot find prey, resulting in starvation.

The noise from the increased naval activity can also leave the animals feeling confused and scared, causing them to swim too close to unfamiliar shores and end up in fishing nets.

The Black Sea. A dead dolphin near the shore.
Marine biologist Pavel Goldin argues dolphins have been struggling to hunt for food while being distracted by sonar devices.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Dolphins migrating from Marmara sea to Black sea appear in #Istanbul's Halic, Turkey during the spring season in Turkey on May 26, 2020.
Marine biologists claim dolphins are being killed by noise pollution from the sonar devices of Russian warships.
Mehmet Eser/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Black Sea dolphins caught in the war zone face other adversities as well, including mines littering the waters and artillery fire.

Marine biologists said the ongoing war could have far-reaching effects on the Black Sea’s ecosystem, but they do not yet know the full extent of the crisis because they do not have access to the area due to the hostilities between Russia and Ukraine.

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