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: 14372

Reported Deaths: 693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds95924
Lauderdale71358
Madison69422
Scott63010
Neshoba58937
Jones56622
Forrest52338
DeSoto5036
Leake40012
Rankin3856
Holmes38524
Jackson30313
Copiah2904
Attala28415
Newton2564
Monroe25225
Leflore25130
Lincoln25024
Harrison2477
Lamar2315
Yazoo2274
Pearl River20631
Pike20311
Adams19015
Lowndes1899
Noxubee1736
Washington1667
Warren1597
Bolivar15411
Wayne1540
Oktibbeha15411
Jasper1524
Smith14511
Covington1431
Clarke13818
Kemper13611
Chickasaw13012
Lafayette1274
Lee1245
Carroll11511
Coahoma1144
Marion1149
Clay1084
Winston1051
Lawrence1021
Simpson950
Hancock8711
Wilkinson859
Yalobusha855
Grenada853
Itawamba847
Montgomery811
Union805
Sunflower783
Jefferson Davis772
Marshall773
Tate741
Tippah7111
Claiborne692
Panola643
Calhoun634
Webster611
Humphreys587
Amite561
Tunica533
Walthall520
Perry503
Prentiss423
Jefferson400
Choctaw342
Stone300
Pontotoc293
Tishomingo280
Franklin282
Tallahatchie261
Quitman250
George211
Benton150
Alcorn141
Greene91
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 16530

Reported Deaths: 591
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2124112
Jefferson1712100
Montgomery154134
Tuscaloosa67813
Marshall6689
Lee53332
Franklin5147
Shelby48419
Tallapoosa41864
Butler39213
Chambers34924
Madison3184
Elmore3137
Walker2991
Baldwin2819
Etowah24411
Dallas2443
DeKalb2413
Morgan2311
Coffee2241
Lowndes22210
Sumter2136
Autauga2053
Houston1884
Bullock1833
Pike1790
Colbert1612
Russell1590
Marengo1556
Lauderdale1532
Calhoun1523
Hale1517
Choctaw1488
Wilcox1347
Barbour1321
Clarke1292
Randolph1257
Marion11911
St. Clair1161
Pickens1014
Talladega1003
Dale990
Chilton971
Cullman960
Greene924
Limestone870
Winston820
Covington771
Jackson752
Crenshaw722
Bibb711
Henry712
Macon712
Washington666
Blount581
Escambia493
Lawrence460
Geneva400
Conecuh351
Coosa351
Monroe352
Perry350
Cherokee342
Clay272
Lamar210
Fayette130
Cleburne131
Unassigned00
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