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An Increase in Stranded Seals Worries Officials

August 26, 2018

Pelham's Logan Dumont caught this 44-inch, 25.5-pound striped bass in the mouth of the Merrimack River. He was fishing with his brother Jake and his father Mike on his grandfather Bob Koerner's boat. COURTESY PHOTO Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

An increase in both live and dead stranded harbor seals and gray seals continues along the coasts of Southern Maine, New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts, according to NOAA, with spikes in strandings over the last week.

Currently more than 280 seals have stranded live or dead in the region since June 1. Live seals are presenting in poor body condition with clinical signs of lethargy, coughing, sneezing and seizing.

Samples have been collected and sent for testing and results should be available next week from that testing. Previous seal mortality events have been caused by avian influenza and phocine distemper virus in the northeastern U.S.

Further evaluations will continue over the next several weeks to determine the direction of the investigation, but right now officials aren’t sure what’s going on.

If you see a sick or injured seal, call the NOAA hotline at 866-755-NOAA (6622).

For your safety and theirs, do not touch a stranded seal, don’t allow pets to approach the seal, and observe the animal from a safe distance of 100 yards.

Stranding numbers for July 1-August 15:

Maine -- July, 42 live, 61 dead. August, 28 live, 85 dead.

New Hampshire -- July, 14 live, 27 dead; August, 11 live, 27 dead.

Total -- 95 live, 200 dead.

Rivers returning

Massachusetts rivers are making a huge comeback when it comes to both being clean and to the restoration of the fisheries programs. Here in our local area the Mystic and Merrimack Rivers now sparkle in comparison to decades ago.

The herring was a huge problem with the species all but wiped out. Just nine years ago only 100 herring made the trip back here on the mighty Merrimack. For several years the herring declined and were not studied at as they should have been, then a moratorium was put in place and is still in place today.

Also in decline were shad. This fish once counted well over 15,000 but the numbers fell to 500 when nobody was paying attention.

Today the herring have made a comeback. The effort of a few have made the difference of thousands of returning herring and shad. This spring the Merrimack had 465,000 herring and 26,000 shad make the return.

The Mystic run looks like it is well over a half million herring. These numbers are still being tabulated and could be as high as 700,000 when the counting is done.

Of interest to everyone here is the returning Atlantic salmon. A great program was stopped by the feds almost 10 years ago when a flood knocked out the research and development labs in Vermont. They were given up on, but a small group of salmon came back again this year to spawn and perhaps they will rebound.

Maybe the feds will look again at this great fish and give it some help.

Great fishing is starting up in Lake Ontario for big salmon just staging at the entrance of the Salmon River in Pulaski, N.Y.

A few fish have indeed made it into the mouth. This is what anglers from all of the northeast and so many from right here in Greater Lowell have been waiting for. These coho and kings will march up the river by the thousands and spawn, with anglers having the time of their life.

Right in the middle of this spawn will be rainbow trout and steelheads to 17 pounds gobbling up those just-laid salmon eggs like candy.

Call and find a campground or a motel and make the trip. It is well worth your travel time of about five hours.

Bill Biswanger’s email is bboutdoor1 @aol.com

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