Dead dolphins have been washing up on the shores of Coney Island in unusually high numbers this year and scientists have officially begun to raise the alarm. According to a report in the Huffington Post, the rate of dead dolphins appearing on beaches along the East Coast is seven times higher than normal.
When we first reported on a dead baby dolphin washing up on Coney Island in February, we were sad. When dead dolphins washed up in April and July, we began to wonder if it was more than a coincidence. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service, 120 dolphins have turned up dead on the shores along the East Coast – 28 have washed up in the past month alone – in what federal scientists have described as an “unusual mortality event.”
While a cause has yet to be determined, the HuffPo article described a number of possible factors that might be killing the dolphins:
A number of things can cause dolphins to strand, including harmful algal blooms, infectious viruses, injuries due to ship strikes, pollutants and human-made runoff, NOAA said.
Although the cause has not been determined, early tissue analysis showed that one suspect could be morbillivirus, an infectious pathogen, said Teri Rowles, national marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.
Marine stranding response centers are collecting information on the deaths and necropsies are being performed, but it could take several weeks to determine what led to the deaths, the NOAA said.
The report also cited that the last time dolphins were dying in such large numbers was in 1987, when more than 700 dolphins were stricken with the morbillivirus, leaving corpses across the East Coast.
Researchers have warned the public not to approach any dead dolphins as they could harbor an infectious disease. Same goes for any mariners who spot a lone dolphin who has strayed from its pod.