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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.

Cases: 144544

Reported Deaths: 3729
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto956999
Hinds9541193
Harrison6825105
Jackson6068116
Rankin523796
Lee480294
Madison4602102
Forrest367185
Jones344687
Lauderdale3343142
Lafayette313347
Washington3088106
Lamar281849
Bolivar237883
Oktibbeha237760
Lowndes228362
Neshoba2171113
Panola211047
Marshall207247
Leflore200789
Pontotoc193227
Monroe189577
Sunflower189554
Lincoln183964
Warren172157
Tate163349
Union160125
Pike160058
Copiah158840
Yazoo150638
Scott149929
Coahoma147342
Itawamba145533
Alcorn143724
Simpson143553
Pearl River142967
Prentiss139526
Grenada136344
Adams135948
Leake131643
Holmes124461
George121623
Tippah120930
Covington117234
Winston115824
Wayne115722
Hancock114137
Marion110746
Attala106233
Tishomingo106042
Newton102829
Chickasaw102332
Tallahatchie94727
Clarke88253
Clay86726
Jasper81121
Walthall74328
Stone72314
Montgomery71925
Calhoun71213
Carroll70514
Lawrence69914
Noxubee69017
Smith68616
Yalobusha67926
Perry65225
Tunica59519
Greene58422
Claiborne57416
Jefferson Davis54117
Humphreys52518
Amite50814
Benton48217
Quitman4786
Webster41614
Kemper40815
Wilkinson38422
Jefferson34011
Franklin3185
Sharkey30617
Choctaw3057
Issaquena1114
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 234080

Reported Deaths: 3459
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson30620491
Mobile19306358
Tuscaloosa12501148
Madison12410146
Montgomery12040232
Shelby980576
Baldwin826984
Lee753964
Morgan618247
Calhoun5997113
Etowah590564
Marshall581953
Houston507038
DeKalb463535
Cullman412636
Limestone404544
St. Clair398455
Elmore393961
Lauderdale382953
Walker349096
Talladega335942
Colbert296341
Jackson291924
Blount276336
Autauga263439
Franklin244833
Coffee233415
Dale226654
Dallas220231
Russell21803
Chilton216937
Covington212533
Escambia194431
Tallapoosa169290
Chambers168048
Pike155514
Clarke155419
Marion134535
Winston123723
Lawrence122436
Geneva11748
Marengo116924
Barbour116110
Pickens115318
Bibb114217
Butler113741
Randolph99821
Cherokee98924
Hale91631
Washington90018
Clay89423
Fayette84416
Henry8426
Lowndes78729
Monroe76811
Cleburne74414
Crenshaw70330
Macon70020
Bullock69019
Conecuh66814
Perry6686
Lamar6267
Wilcox62418
Sumter55322
Choctaw41713
Greene40217
Coosa3074
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