Putin's War May Have Killed up to 50,000 Dolphins in Black Sea

Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine could have killed up to 50,000 dolphins in the Black Sea, according to one scientist.

The estimation was reported by Ivan Rusev, a Ukrainian biologist and the head of the scientific department of the Tuzly Lagoons National Nature Park, located in southern Ukraine.

He said in a Facebook post that the number of dolphins thought to have died since Russia invaded Ukraine in February was much larger than previously thought.

This is thought to be due to the presence of Russian ships and submarines. The noise the ships give off can cause dolphins and other marine life to become disorientated. This can cause them to become blind, hit mines or suffer acoustic injuries.

Rusev originally believed in July there were at least 5,000 dead dolphins due to the war, but now estimates this figure to be much larger. He had said at the time that the death toll was three times more than figures measured before the conflict.

Eoghan Darbyshire an environmental scientist at The Conflict and Environment Observatory, a charity based in the U.K, told Newsweek that the impacts of marine life during conflict are perhaps "the most difficult environmental damages to monitor during war."

Composite, Dolphin and Vladimir Putin
Composite image, a dolphin and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In July, it was believed at least 5,000 dolphins had died in the Black Sea due to the war in Ukraine. iStock / AP

"The most visible sign of damage is the washing up of cetaceans (dolphins, whales) on the beaches around the Black Sea. Anecdotally numbers are higher than in previous years, suggesting a link with the conflict—most likely military sonar, where there is a relatively well-established link to behavioral change in cetaceans," Darbyshire said.

Darbyshire said there were "other risks too."

"Sea mines have also been washed up on beaches across the Black Sea, whilst pollution is likely an issue in some areas—including via oil slicks from attacked ships or rigs, and from the rivers running into the sea which are more contaminated with sewage and toxic remnants of war. While at this stage, without on-the-ground surveys and measurements, it is difficult to robustly assess the severity of the impacts on marine life, we can say there are likely significant and long-lasting impacts."

According to Rusev, about 5 percent of all dead animals wash ashore, and the remaining 95 percent sink to the bottom of the sea.

"They are not available for detection and counting from the shore, so we estimate that during the Russian barbarians' war against Ukraine, up to 50 thousand whale-like have already died, which is extremely terrible for the marine ecosystem," Rusev said on Facebook.

The body of a dolphin recently washed up the Tuzly Lagoons National Nature Park, near Lebedivka, south of Odesa.

"We once again found the remains of a dead dolphin in a part of the sandbar that is inaccessible to stray dogs and jackals, near high cliffs. There the dolphin dried up, but was not damaged by predators," Rusev said on Facebook.

Rusev said that considering the fact there were only remains, scientists estimate it probably died in the summer, when the Russians were "actively moving around the sea and using sonars."