Federal scientists are trying to determine why an extraordinary number of dolphins were found dead along the Gulf Coast.
A large majority of the 279 common dolphins found stranded along the Gulf in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana since Feb. 1 have died, officials of the National Oceans Administration said on Friday. 39; atmosphere.
The number of deaths is about three times higher than the normal grounding rate for this period, NOAA officials said. About 78% of the carcasses were too decomposed to be studied, they said.
To date, the suspect sources are the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, which has had a lasting impact on the Gulf's coastal flora and fauna, and the historic Midwestern floods, which have caused freshwater flooding in the Gulf.
Teri Rowles, coordinator of the marine mammal health and mammal failure response program at NOAA Fisheries, said the grounding was taking place in "some of the same areas" affected by the spill. .
"[Dolphin] breeding in some of the heavier oil areas continues to be abnormal, "she said.
At the same time, scientists studying dolphin carcasses have found "visible skin lesions consistent with freshwater exposure," said Erin Fougères, a program director for the marine mammal stranding program in the southern region of the country. is from NOAA Fisheries.
Nearly one of the four stranded dolphins examined by scientists showed signs of exposure to fresh water, which could be related to the abnormal flooding of a river, said scientists from NOAA.
They said on Monday that it was expected that 7,829 square miles of land and gulf shoreline would be part of an annual "dead zone" for wildlife this summer because of the seasonal flows of rivers that create rivers. conditions of lack of oxygen under water.
The cause of what NOAA calls an "unusual mortality event" for dolphins remains a matter for scientific investigation, and officials said they would create an investigative team to shed light on these deaths.
Scientists have asked boaters and beachgoers who encounter dolphins stranded or dead along the Gulf Coast to stay away and immediately notify authorities such as the US Coast Guard.
Austin Mullen contributed.