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Oil-fouled seals, seabirds in Bering Strait puzzle experts

Published on Nov 10, 2012 9:34 AM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (REUTERS) - Seals and seabirds in Alaska waters near the Bering Strait have been showing up contaminated with oil from an unknown source, and marine experts were headed to the region to investigate the mystery, federal and state officials said on Friday.

Sightings of oiled birds and marine mammals over the past two months have raised "red flags" among state and federal agencies that oversee wildlife and environmental conditions in the region, said United States (US) Coast Guard spokesman David Mosley.

The precise scope of oil contamination has yet to be quantified, but authorities have so far confirmed two cases of oil-fouled seals harvested by native Alaska hunters and an unspecified number of murres, marine birds common to Alaska waters, he said.

Representatives of the Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation were on their way on Friday to St. Lawrence Island, in a remote corner of the Bering Strait, to meet with villagers, survey beaches and try to determine the reason for the contamination, he said.

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