Whether they got lost, sick or swam astray chasing food, 77 dolphins that beached on Cape Cod in recent weeks have died, the second time in three months New England, USA has seen a mass of marine mammal deaths.
Now, scientists are trying to figure out why.
They’re also researching whether there’s any connection to a die-off this fall of 162 harbor seals, whose carcasses were found between northern Massachusetts and Maine.
Scientists later determined the seal deaths were linked to an influenza virus similar to one found in birds but never before seen in seals. In a letter earlier this month, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Rep. William Keating asked Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to investigate “any common cause” between the dolphin and seal deaths.
“That is a big question,” said Mendy Garron, regional marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, part of NOAA. The initial indications are that there is no link, she said, but it’s too early for a definitive answer. Necropsies are under way to determine the causes of death, and that can take a few weeks.
The strandings stretch along 25-mile stretch of Cape Cod from Wellfleet, approaching the tip of the cape, south around the curve of Cape Cod Bay to Dennis.
The first was reported in Wellfleet on Jan. 12. Five more reports followed the next day. On Jan. 14, 30 more animals got stuck on Wellfeet and reports remained steady, then trailed off in the past week.
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