NOAA: 279 dolphins dead on Gulf Coast, triple usual number

MGN Online

At least 279 dolphins have stranded across much of the U.S. Gulf Coast since Feb. 1.

Posted: Jun 14, 2019 4:55 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — At least 279 dolphins have stranded across much of the U.S. Gulf Coast since Feb. 1, triple the usual number, and about 98 percent of them have died, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday.

Scientists will investigate whether lingering effects from the 2010 BP oil spill and more immediate effects from low salinity because of freshwater flowing from high rivers and a Louisiana spillway contributed to the deaths, said Teri Rowles, coordinator for NOAA Fisheries' Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.

BP spill effects included problems with lungs and adrenal glands, which produce stress-related hormones; blood abnormalities; and general poor condition, according to earlier reports . Those reports said the spill contributed to the Gulf of Mexico's largest and longest dolphin die-off.

"We do know some of the health conditions ... are improving, but some have been slow to improve," Rowles said. "Reproduction in the heaviest-oiled areas continues below normal."

Erin Fougères, administrator for the marine mammal stranding program in NOAA Fisheries' southeast region, said 23% of the dolphins stranded from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle had sores consistent with freshwater exposure. Such lesions are "not uncommon" in the spring, according to NOAA's website .

Mississippi had 121 dolphin strandings as of Wednesday, with 89 in Louisiana, 32 in Alabama and 37 in Florida, Fougères said.

Moby Solangi, director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi, put that state's total on Thursday at 126, and said the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway is at least partly to blame. The effects are worse for Mississippi's dolphins than the BP spill, he said, noting that 91 dead dolphins were found in Mississippi during all of 2010.

Dolphins continued to die for years because of oil spill damage, a 2015 study reported.

Freshwater exposure "doesn't appear to be the cause of death for all animals, so that's something we're continuing to investigate," Fougères said. Rowles noted that 70 percent of the carcasses were too decomposed for necropsy.

She said other possible causes might include chemicals and other pollutants in the river water, and changes in the dolphins' usual prey as fish and crabs needing higher salinity left the bays and estuaries where 15 of the area's 17 dolphin groups live.

Such groups tend to stay in their home territories in spite of changes that could harm them, Fougères said.

She said NOAA Fisheries also is investigating reports of increased turtle strandings in Louisiana and Mississippi. Those numbers are above five- and 10-year averages, but are lower than some previous years, Fougères said.

"We do not suspect sea turtle strandings are related to freshwater exposure," she said. "But we are concerned that decreased salinity could have effects on their prey and habitat."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115763

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
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