The warning was issued at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Canada.
Of the 5,000 marine mammal carcasses recovered along the coast of the Pacific Northwest and autopsied between 1998 and 2010, 40 percent were killed by infectious diseases, according to Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist with the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.
“In many cases, the diseases found in these marine mammals have similar or genetically identical agents as those infecting pets and livestock,” said Raverty.
Increased coastal development and runoff from industrialized farming appears to be flushing the pathogens into the oceans.
Wetlands that once filtered such diseases before they reached the coast are increasingly being filled in for development.
Photo: Taken under authority of U.S. Marine Mammal Permit No. 14326-02 issued to the National Marine Mammal Lab, Seattle, WA.