2022-2023 Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event along the Maine Coast
Since June 2022, elevated numbers of harbor seal and gray seal mortalities have occurred across the southern and central coast of Maine. This event has been declared an unusual mortality event (UME).
Since June 2022, elevated numbers of sick and dead harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) and gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) have been documented along the southern and central coast of Maine from Biddeford to Boothbay (including Cumberland, Lincoln, Knox, Sagadahoc and York Counties). This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME).
Seal Strandings in Maine by County from June 1 2022-July 16, 2023*
|Maine County||Gray Seal||Harbor Seal||Harp Seal||Unknown||Total|
*Note - Data for Waldo-Hancock-Washington counties included since July 13, 2022
Why are Seals Stranding?
Preliminary testing of samples has found some harbor and gray seals positive for highly pathogenic avian inﬂuenza (HPAI) H5N1. There is an ongoing HPAI H5N1 event North America that was ﬁrst detected in early winter 2021. The ﬁrst detections in Maine waterfowl were in February 2022. HPAI H5N1 has now been conﬁrmed in 41 U.S. states and 11 Canada provinces, in commercial poultry, backyard ﬂocks, nearly 90 species of wild birds, eight species of scavenging mammals, and now seals. NOAA Fisheries is working with our local, state, tribal, federal and international partners in the investigation of HPAI in seals. HPAI is a “zoonotic disease” that has the potential to spread between animals and people (and their pets).
As part of the UME investigation process, an independent team of scientists (Investigative Team) is being assembled to coordinate with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to review the data collected and provide guidance for the investigation.
How Can I Help?
Report a Stranded or Floating Seal
If you see a sick, injured, or dead seal in Maine, please call the Maine Marine Animal Reporting Hotline at (800) 532-9551. To report seal strandings south of Maine, please call the NOAA Fisheries Stranding Hotline: (866) 755-6622 or by contacting your local marine mammal stranding network member by visiting our Stranding Network web page for local contact information. Please do not approach or touch the seal. Please wait patiently for further guidance from trained responders.
The health risk posed by avian flu to the general public is low; however, precautions are recommended. Please do not touch live or dead seals, don’t allow pets to approach the seal, and observe the animal from a safe distance of 150 feet (safe for you and the animal).
Donate to the UME Contingency Fund
Congress established the Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Event Contingency Fund in 1992. It gave the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program special authority to gather private donations to help it investigate and respond to marine mammal unusual mortality events.
- Marine Mammals of Maine
- Atlantic Marine Conservation Society
- Maine Department of Marine Resources
- Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry
- Maine Marine Patrol
- Runstadler Lab at Cummings School for Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
- USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Veterinary Services Laboratories
- U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center
- NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement