Mysterious dolphin deaths continue in Gulf of Mexico

An unusually high number of dolphin deaths that began three years ago in the northern Gulf of Mexico is continuing though the number of deaths in Florida, USA peaked in 2011.

From February 2010 to Sunday, the bodies of 830 marine mammals, nearly all bottlenose dolphins and a few whales, have been found along the coast from Louisiana to Apalachicola, Fla., according to figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Of those, almost 150 dolphins found dead on beaches or in marshes were premature, stillborn or neonatal bottlenose.

In the seven years before 2010, the northern Gulf each year saw an average 63 bottlenose dolphin strandings, incidents where injured or sick marine mammals come ashore.

That the number of dolphin deaths continues to be higher than before 2010 worries Teri Rowles, who heads NOAA’s investigation team.

“This is the longest unusual mortality event nationally,” she said of the dolphin deaths.

The dolphin deaths began their climb before the Deepwater Horizon disaster April 20, 2010, but the oil spill is being considered as a cause. Bacteria and biotoxins, such as red tide, also are being investigated as factors contributing to the deaths.

Scientists don’t know the full scope of the die-off because they rely on field reports of deaths. Not all dead dolphins wash up on populated beaches and waterways where they can be recovered, so many deaths may be going uncounted.

Full story: USA Today

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