Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers
The East Coast marine community is sounding the alarm over a recent uptick in deaths among bottlenose dolphins in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Seven times the normal number of bottlenose dolphins have been found stranded on shorelines in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia since early July, according to a notice put out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and updated as of Aug. 20. The situations range from a few live dolphins to many dead and decomposed dolphins, the agency says.
So far this year, there have been 299 strandings, while there were 111 for all of last year, according to a chart published by the agency.
Some of the dead dolphins have been found to have pulmonary lesions and preliminary testing of one dolphin showed possible morbillivirus infection.
This infection was the culprit behind the last mass die off of dolphins, in 1987 and 1988, when more than 700 dead bottlenose dolphins were found along the East Coast from New Jersey to Florida. The virus is related to the one that causes measles.
In the earlier case, scientists found there was a connection between the deaths and brevetoxin, a compound found in algal blooms, according to livescience.com.
On Twitter, dolphin experts and enthusiasts expressed their alarm over the deaths and one speculated the cause was a return of morbillivirus. One shared an Aug. 14 piece from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which reported that Virginia is being hit hardest by the dolphin deaths. Almost 50 dead dolphins were found dead in Virginia last month, and that is seven times the normal amount, the news organization reported.
"August is looking to be significantly worse," Mark Swingle, director of research and conservation for the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach, told the Times-Dispatch.
Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY