07ASTANA1063, KAZAKHSTAN INVESTIGATES DEATH OF SEALS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1063 2007-04-25 14:54 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO6766
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1063 1151454
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251454Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9202
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0137
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 2041
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY

UNCLAS ASTANA 001063 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ECON SENV ENRG EPET KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN INVESTIGATES DEATH OF SEALS 
 
 
1. Summary:  Nearly 700 dead seals have been found on the shores of 
the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan's Mangystau Oblast since the end of 
March.  Kazakhstan's Ministry of Environment has established an 
interagency commission to investigate the deaths, but no final 
conclusions have been reached.  Local ecologists claimed that an 
early ice melt caused the deaths, a theory supported by the Ministry 
of Environment.  In its preliminary report, however, the Ministry of 
Education attributed the deaths to a virus outbreak.  The Mangystau 
Oblast is the center of Kazakhstan's petroleum operations, but no 
evidence exists linking the deaths to toxic emissions from the oil 
fields.  End summary. 
 
2. On March 30, 21 dead seals were found on the shore of the Caspian 
Sea in the Tyupkaragan district of the Mangystau oblast. Similar 
discoveries have been made throughout the month of April.  By April 
25, the number of dead seals had reached 674, including 524 baby 
seals, and continues to grow. 
 
3. In early April, an interagency commission established by the 
Ministry of Environment traveled to the Mangystau Oblast to 
investigate the seal deaths.  Local experts blamed the deaths on an 
unseasonably warm winter.  According to Marat Orynbasarov, Deputy 
Head of the Mangystau Department for Environment Protection, seals 
usually rear their offspring on ice but were forced to shore this 
year because of an early ice-melt.  Once ashore, the seals were not 
able to find sufficient fodder to feed their calves, leaving them 
weak and underfed. On April 10, the Ministry of Environment released 
a public statement in which it affirmed that weather was a likely 
cause for the seal deaths. 
 
4. A different theory was offered by scientists from the Ministry of 
Education and Science's Research Institute for Biological Safety on 
April 11.  In their preliminary report, the scientists posited that 
Phocine Distemper Virus, or "seal plague," may be the cause of the 
deaths.  The virus killed 12,000 seals in the Caspian in 2000.  The 
interagency commission investigating the deaths has not yet endorsed 
either theory and continues its inquiry. 
 
5. Some experts also believed that the deaths might be connected to 
the discharge of pollutants because of the significant petroleum 
extraction activity in the Mangystau Oblast.  In April 2006, 337 
seals died because of pollutant discharge from Caspian oil wells. 
In this instance, however, pollution seems not to have played a 
role.  The Mangystau regional center for sanitary and 
epidemiological control examined the seals and found that no sign of 
excessive heavy metals or pesticides in their systems.  Seawater 
tests also did not reveal any oil products. 
 
ORDWAY

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