Sunday, August 18, 2013

Update: Summer Dolphin Deaths

Photo: media.nj.com/star-ledger/
As we reported earlier, there have been an unusually high number of dolphin deaths off our coast this summer. Three dolphins were found deceased Friday in Seaside Heights, Longport, and Stone Harbor and more were reported Saturday at the Jersey Shore. These were severely decomposed dolphins that washed ashore in Long Beach Township and Upper Township.

The total for NJ is 52 since July 9 and about 150 dolphins have been recovered at beaches between New York and Virginia since July.

Robert Schoelkopf, Director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, told the press that in Ocean City last week a shark took a bite out of a dying dolphin struggling in knee-deep water. "We were lucky because just before the dolphin appeared, we had a severe lighting storm and lifeguards blew their whistles to get people out of the water. Someone in the crowd wading in the water could have been bitten."

Responders from the Center do not enter the water to recover sea life, but wait for the animal to wash ashore.

"Strandings" are when live animals are captured, weighed, tagged, possibly treated and then released, so these dolphin cases are not part of that category.

Although some of the dolphins have tested positive for morbillivirus, a naturally occurring virus in dolphin populations, the cause of this summer's number of deaths is still not confirmed. Because dolphins swim close together in pods, diseases spread between animals when they surface to breathe.

There is no evidence so far that the deaths this summer are in any way related to water quality or represent a danger to humans.

More dead dolphins wash ashore, cause still unclear
Jersey Shore Dolphin Deaths Not Related to Water Quality
Another dolphin death in Ocean City

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