Friday, March 21, 2008

Dolphin death toll doubles up in Texas!

Another 20 dead dolphins had washed up on the upper Texas Coast as of Thursday, bringing the death toll to about 40 as Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network officials pleaded with people offshore to report any they see.


To report a stranded dolphin, call 1-800-9MAMMAL (1-800-962-6625)

Hourly notices this week to mariners requested reports of floating dolphin carcasses, said Heidi Watts, Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network operations coordinator.

The network has been unable to pinpoint a cause of death either this year or last during a similar die-off, she said. Studying bodies that aren't as badly decomposed could help researchers, she said.

On March 3 and 4, about 20 badly decomposed dolphins washed up on McFaddin Beach near High Island, Crystal Beach near Rollover Pass and Galveston's West End and the San Luis Pass, according to the archives.

Those dolphins ranged from 3 feet to 10 feet long and were either very young or very old.
Since then, about 20 more have washed up, Watts said.

"It's still unusually high," she said. Network personnel typically see stranded dolphins - both alive and dead - from January to March, but not usually this many.

Tissue samples have been sent off to a laboratory for testing and analysis, she said.

Recently, most of the dolphins are washing up on Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island, and some have been reported by beachgoers.

"They still continue to come in," Watts said of the dolphins.

Last year, an unusual mortality event was called after 68 dolphins washed up in three weeks on the upper Texas coast.

Biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries division are monitoring the die-off but haven't labeled it an unusual mortality event yet, said Kim Amendola, a division communication specialist.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"