Dead Sea Lions Wash Ashore In Peru; Fishermen Suspected Of Poisoning Water

An alleged seaside slaughter is occurring in Peru as authorities in the South American nation are investigating the death of scores of sea lions that have washed ashore.

Local reports indicate the animals could be dying because local fisherman are poisoning the water.

Over the past two weeks, reports have surfaced of the bodies of sea lions, along with those of dolphins and turtles, emerging near the Peruvian port of Eten, about 466 miles north of the capital of Lima. Reports on the cause of death as well as the number of sea lions killed have varied, with initial reports indicating that between 30 and 50 sea lions showed signs of rat poisoning while a spokesman for the Peru Sea Institute placed the number below 20.

Sea Lions are considered a protected species, but local fishermen consider them competition in their hunt for food. Fisherman have previously been known to feed the sea lions fish laced with rat poison to kill them, and that dolphins and turtles have also been known to eat the deadly fish.

By May of last year,more 800 dolphins and 1,200 pelicans were found dead on the beaches in Peru, but Peruvian officials claimed the deaths were caused by either avian flu, another type of virus or seismic oil exploration that has recently been carried out off northern Peru.

An analysis of the beached dolphins' internal organs hasn't found the sort of symptoms that experts have seen in other cases when dolphins have been affected by seismic tests, experts have said.

Seismic tests produce underwater noise that can harm dolphins. But in Peru, it's the first time such dolphin deaths have coincided with seismic work and that the dolphins began dying before the tests started.

Carlos Yaipen of the non-government organization ORCA has appealed to Peruvian authorities to step up their oversight of the fishing industry and the use of poisonous substances.

South American sea lions, also known as the southern sea lion and the Patagonian sea lion, are indigenous to the coasts of Chile, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil. While their populations have increased in the Argentinean Patagonia, they have decreased in both Chile and Uruguay.

In Peru, the poisoning of the waters along with completion for fish and sea lions getting caught in fishing nets have hurt the animal’s population, but overall the group is considered stable.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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