Since June 1, 2022, Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) – a NOAA Fisheries authorized marine mammal stranding network partner – has responded to 40 stranded seals, most of which were found dead. On July 1, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories concluded that four samples from stranded seals in Maine have tested positive for H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).
NOAA Fisheries, working with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and local partners, are investigating environmental conditions, common factors contributing to past stranding events, and any potential human impacts. Outbreaks of diseases in seals occur in nature periodically, and tend to last for several months to several years. However, the current rate of strandings is approximately three times the normal rate for this time of the year in this area.
If you see a sick or injured seal in Maine, please call the Maine Marine Animal Reporting Hotline at 1-800-532-9551. To report seal strandings south of Maine, please call the NOAA Fisheries Stranding Hotline: (866) 755-6622. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the health risk posed by HPAI to the general public is low, however precautions are recommended. Please do not touch a stranded seal, 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).
Thank you for your patience, understanding and compassion as MMoME’s staff and volunteer network navigate this increase in activity during what is already our busiest time of the year. Our goal remains to respond to each case in a safe, timely and compassionate manner. If you’d like to donate to support our work you can do so here.
Media with questions about this event can contact Allison Ferreira (Allison.Ferreira@noaa.gov) at NOAA.