Since February, over 200 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead on beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. The spike in strandings has the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration worried because the death toll is over 3 times the normal amount of dolphin deaths in a year.
Dr. Erin Fougere, with NOAA, says, “we are just starting our investigation now. We are concerned about the very low salinity that the northern Gulf is experiencing just due to the massive flooding that’s occurred over this past winter. It’s the wettest winter in the Mississippi Valley in the past 124 years.”
Bottlenose dolphins are not just dying, they are also showing up with skin lesions, indicating a problem in the water. Freshwater can harm bottlenose dolphins with prolonged exposure. Plus, these animals are still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Fougere says, “they do still have those health issues and any additional stressor or environmental change could potentially, you know, tip them over the edge which might be what we’re seeing here.We always say they’re like canary in the coal mines, so things that are impacting dolphins are things that could ultimately impact humans. They’re coastal residents. They live close to the beaches and the shore similar to the way humans do so it’s always worth monitoring what’s going on with them.”