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Marine Mammal Deaths Classified as ‘Unusual Mortality Events’ by Researchers

Public Safety Precautions

  • Stay at least 50 yards (150 feet) away from seals, dolphins, or other marine mammals.
  • Keep dogs on a leash and don't allow them to approach seals. Seals and dogs can easily infect each other with diseases since they are closely related species.
  • Report injured or sick marine mammals to your local authorities or local stranding network member.

Reporting Marine Mammal Disease or Death

New England: Call NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional 24-hour stranding hotline at 1-866-755-NOAA (6622) or visit NOAA's Northeast Region website for local contact information.

Alaska: Place reports based on the corresponding regions below.

North Slope area: North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management: 907-852-0350

Bering Strait region: Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program: 1-800-478-2202 or 907-443-2397

Elsewhere in Alaska: NOAA Fisheries Alaska marine mammal stranding hotline: 1-877-925-7773

Southeast Region: Call 1-877-WHALE HELP (1-877-942-5343)

You can also visit Protected Resources website at any time to obtain contact information for marine mammal and sea turtle stranding networks in your area.


A high number of marine mammal deaths in New England, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Arctic have been named “unusual mortality events” or UMEs by the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events, a diverse panel of experts including scientific and academic institutions, conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies established under the Marine Mammal Protection Act

A UME declaration launches a scientific investigation to pinpoint the cause(s) of the deaths and determine whether or not these animals pose a risk to humans who come in contact with them. For scientists, closely examining and understanding these mortalities is a key link to monitoring ocean health, which has a significant impact on public health and wildlife.

News and Announcements

May 9, 2012 - NOAA Declares 2011-2012 Bottlenose Dolphin Unusual Mortality Event in Texas
On May 9, 2012, NOAA declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) for bottlenose dolphins in 5 Texas counties.  The UME lasted from November 2011-March 2012, when 123 bottlenose dolphins stranded in Aransas, Calhoun, Kleburg, Galveston, and Brazoria counties in Texas. Scientists are continuing to investigate the event to determine the cause. More…

December 20, 2011 - Deaths of Ringed Seals in Alaska Declared an Unusual Mortality Event; Walrus Pending
NOAA declared the recent deaths of ringed seals in the Arctic and Bering Strait regions of Alaska an unusual mortality event, triggering a focused, expert investigation into the cause. A decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on making such a declaration for Pacific walrus in Alaska is pending. More… | Outbreak Information

December 20, 2011 - Science team identifies influenza virus subtype that infected five dead seals 
A virus similar to one found in birds but never before in harbor seals was the cause of five of 162 recent deaths of the animals in New England, according to a group of federal agencies and private partners. More…  

November 4, 2011 - NOAA declares string of seal deaths in New England an unusual mortality event
NOAA announced today that the high number of seal deaths that have occurred along the New England coast since September has been declared an “Unusual Mortality Event.” This will enable the agency to direct additional resources to further investigate the cause of these seal deaths. More ...

To learn more about current and past Unusual Mortality Events visit:

Q&A on the Subtype of Influenza A Virus Found in Harbor Seals 
Q&A on Declaration of UME for Harbor Seal Mortalities in New England Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events
Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program


Map of the Northern Marine Mammals Illness