Lithuanian border guards and police are helping environmental protection officers in their efforts to find the killers of more than 20 red-listed seals found dead on the country's Baltic Sea coast this year, the Environment Ministry said on Wednesday.

"We have declared war on sealers," Andrius Kairys, director of the Klaipeda Regional Environmental Protection Department, said in a press release. "We are being assisted by police and State Border Guard Service officers and their surveillance cameras on the coastal area".

"Twenty dead seals, a record high number, have been found in the Karkle-Sventoji stretch alone over the past two months. We believe that most of them were shot dead, but it is not easy to confirm this, because the animals' bodies decompose in water," he said.

As many as 26 dead seals have been washed up on the country's coast since the start of the year. According the Klaipėda Regional Environmental Protection Department, there were wounds on the bodies of all the animals.

Environmental protection officers in Klaipėda have been watching the coastal area for some time now. According to Kairys, they suspect that seals, an endangered species protected by law in Lithuania, are being hunted by fishers fishing in coastal waters.

When a similar situation occurred three years ago, it was thought that dead gray seals had been brought by the sea from Sweden, where professional seal hunting is legal, or that the animals had been killed by Latvian fishers, but these suspicions proved to be wrong.

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