Tuesday, August 6, 2013

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Latest Reports Of Mysterious Fish Kills Across America - 5 More Dead Dolphins Wash Up In Virginia, Bringing The Total This Year To An Alarming 87; Thousands Of Dead Fish, Stingrays, Crabs And Shrimp Wash Ashore On Mississippi Beaches; 21 Dolphins Wash Ashore On New Jersey Beaches!

August 02, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Here are several of the latest incidents of mass fish die-offs across the United States:
Ocean View, Virginia Sees Third Dead Dolphin.
Dead dolphin in Ocean View on July 31, 2013. Photo by WAVY/Walter Hildebrand.

Another deceased dolphin was found in the Ocean View area, making it the third in a matter of days.  The bottlenose dolphin was found near Beaumont Avenue and appears to be in a decomposed state.  This is the third dead dolphin to wash up on an Ocean View beach in about a week and the fourth in the last three weeks.  Earlier this month, 10 On Your Side asked the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center if there could be a connection between the dolphin deaths, and they said no. 

Now, the aquarium's biologists are a little more concerned.  "We are a little bit concerned about it," said Mark Swingle with the Virginia Aquarium. "It's definitely at a much higher level than we're used to seeing at this time of year."  Swingle said there are a number of reasons that dolphins die -- disease, predation, or just being at the mercy of fishermen's nets or boats. And even though is is prime dolphin season, the number of bottlenose dolphin deaths along the Chesapeake Bay is unusually high for this time of year.  "We have, as of this morning, about 82 dolphin strandings for the year, and typically we average in a whole year about 64 dolphin strandings. So, it's definitely elevated," Swingle said.  


WATCH: Ocean View sees third dead dolphin.





An aquarium press release said 44 of the 82 dolphin strandings this year happened in July -- the average for July is seven. The aquarium's Stranding Response Team is working with the NOAA Fisheries to investigate the causes of death, but it will take time.  "We know how to investigate dolphin strandings, we know how to look into whether or not  the animal is diseased or sick," Swingle said. "And things like that, the challenge is, it does take a little bit of time for those kind of tests to be run."  Most of the recent dolphin strandings are exclusively male, according to the aquarium release.  The aquarium is receiving help from other members of the National Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and so some of the dolphins from Hampton Roads will be transported to North Carolina for examination.  If you see a stranded animal on the beach, do not touch it. Instead, call the stranding hotline anytime of day or night: (757) 385-7575. - WAVY.

5 More Dead Dolphins Wash Up In Virginia, Bringing The Total This Year To 87.
Five more dolphins have washed up dead on beaches in Virginia Thursday.  The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center confirms to NewsChannel 3 that one dolphin was found in the Ocean View section of Norfolk and four others were found in counties including Mathews and Gloucester.  The 5 additional dolphin deaths bring the total number of stranded dolphins recovered by the Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response Team to 87 for the year.  In July, 44 dolphins were recovered by the team, compared to 7 they typically see in that month.


WATCH: 5 more dead dolphins wash up in Virginia.





Read more about the Virginia strandings here.

Virginia isn’t the only state dealing with the increase in dolphin strandings. New Jersey is also reporting a higher than usual number of dead dolphins washing up on shore.  Maggie Mooney-Seus, a spokeswoman for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, tells NewsChannel 3 that the agency has e-mailed an alert to stranding teams along the East Coast asking them to monitor and report dolphin deaths.  The agency is hoping to collect information to see if there are any trends.  NewsChannel 3 also spoke with the Karen Clark, program coordinator for the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, who reports that the number of dolphin strandings in the Outer Banks have not increased and remain typical compared to previous years.

The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team stresses that if you find a dolphin on the beach, don’t touch it, but immediately call the Stranding Response Team. Their hotline is (757)385-7575 and is staffed 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. To learn more about how to report a stranding, click here. - WTKR.

Thousands Of Dead Fish, Stingrays, Crabs And Shrimp Wash Ashore On Mississippi Beaches.
This year's "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico is more than twice the size of last year's.  CBS News


On the pristine beaches of Mississippi, thousands of dead fish, stingrays, crabs and shrimp have washed ashore this month. They died from a lack of oxygen in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.   It's called the "dead zone," and it appears every summer. This year's dead zone, though, is larger than average and more than twice the size of last year's.  "The alarming news is that it continues to be large year after year after year," says marine biologist Nancy Rabalais has measured the dead zone since 1985.  The primary cause of the dead zone is nitrogen-based fertilizers in Midwest fields that are washed down the Mississippi River by spring rains and in to the Gulf. There they create blooms of algae that rob the water of oxygen.

Scientists believe last year's drought has made the dead zone worse, as fertilizer that was never absorbed by crops was swept into the Gulf.  In Dulac, La., David Chauvin worries about what that could do to his shrimp business.  "Shrimp are one of the most fragile creatures on the face of the earth," he says. "You take a shrimp and put them into a bucket with no oxygen whatsoever, they'll die within seconds. ... That could mimic a dead zone."  It's not just his business that's at risk. Seafood in this part of the Gulf is a $2 billion a year industry.  

Five years ago, the states in the Mississippi River basin agreed to a plan for reducing the amount of nitrogen flowing into the Gulf, but it had little effect. Now environmental groups are suing the federal government, calling for standards that are enforced.  Chauvin says that right now, it doesn't sound like the government is "doing anything."  The dead zone usually lasts until late summer or early fall, when powerful storms churn the Gulf and put the oxygen back in the water, leaving people here wondering what's worse -- a dead zone or a hurricane. - WTSP.

21 Dolphins Wash Ashore On New Jersey Beaches.
Two pods of dolphins swam by a group of lifeguards during a morning competition off the beach here Wednesday.  It was the serene summer scene any lifeguard appreciates, but New Jersey guards have had many grimmer encounters with dolphins in recent weeks.  Since a dead dolphin was found in the Elberon section of Long Branch on July 9, 21 dead dolphins have washed onto beaches from Monmouth County to Cape May County, said Bob Schoelkopf, founding director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, which has responded to each.

What’s causing the deaths isn’t yet clear. The number of dolphins brought in for testing — an average of two per day — has delayed the center from getting closer to an answer, Schoelkopf said.  “This is unusual,” he said. “It’s a high number.”  Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service said last week that a typical year could see more than 1,000 strandings of dolphins and other marine animals such as seals and whales from Maine to Virginia.  

This time of year often leads to dolphin strandings because they are migrating and between more boats in the water and a higher population, human interaction or just a sudden sickness could bring a dolphin to shore, said Maggie Mooney-Seus, NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s communications specialist.  Fisheries have started collecting information, which includes asking its other regional stranding network members to report any strandings they have so NOAA can track any trends, Mooney-Seus said.

Schoelkopf said all but one of the beached animals have been bottlenose dolphins. A common dolphin was brought in Tuesday after washing onto the beach in Harvey Cedars. They range from 125 to 500 pounds, he said.  The stranding center picks up the animals, briefly studies them at their headquarters in Brigantine, and then takes them to the New Bolton Center in Chester County, Pa. There, they undergo a necropsy — an autopsy for animals.

“We keep taking them (animals) every day. The lab is pushing as hard as they can,” he said.  While the locations of the dead dolphins has varied, Schoelkopf said his staff has found nine of the dolphins along the 18-mile stretch of Long Beach Island. Long Beach Township has had to report three dead dolphins, Beach Patrol Supervisor Don Myers said.  The three dolphins that washed on his beaches July 19, 24 and 30 came later in the day when few people were on the beach, Myers said. His staff follows protocol by keeping people away and notifying the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, he said.  His staff examined one of the dolphins, which had various cuts, scrapes and punctures. 

But he said he isn’t certain what has been impacting the dolphins.  “I tell my staff they’re mammals like we are. They have respiratory infections or die of natural causes like anything,” Myers said.  The dolphins haven’t forced beach closures and the health department cleared the beach of health issues, Myers said. His beach hasn’t had problems with sharks, either, he said.  Schoelkopf said some of the dolphins that they found had been badly decomposed because of sharks eating the carcasses.  He is urging anyone who sees a dolphin to keep themselves, their pets and children away from it and to report it immediately to the center or local authorities, such as police or lifeguards. - Daily Record.

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