CLEARWATER (CBSMiami) – Scientists are puzzled by a disturbing trend in the waters along four Gulf Coast states.

Almost 300 dead and dying dolphins have washed ashore since February.

Off the coast of St. Petersburg, Erin Fougeres with NOAA Fisheries took CBS News out on their dolphin research vessel.

We found a pod of eight or nine dolphins, all healthy, swimming a half-mile from shore.

But from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, coastline residents keep seeing a dolphin die-off.

They’re all bottlenose dolphins, which live closest to shore. Many were adults. The single-day record is nine.

Last week, NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Program – which Fougeres oversees — designated this die-off an Unusual Mortality Event, or UME.

“I would say it’s concerning and bordering on alarming primarily because it’s a group of dolphins that have been impacted because of other unusual mortality events,” said Fougeres. “So this is the same area that was impacted by the Deep Water Horizon spill.”

Scientists are exploring several possible causes, from the lingering effects of the BP oil spill in 2010 to skin lesions on many recovered dolphins that indicate freshwater exposure.

Heavy rainfall has flowed from the Mississippi into the Gulf.

Or it could be chemicals, pollutants, or a combination.

“It’s an area where dolphins have been previously exposed to oil, they have compromised health,” said Fougeres. “They have lingering health issues and um, so they are more susceptible to any additional stressor; anything could tip them potentially over the edge.”

What researchers want to see throughout the Gulf is healthy dolphins unthreatened by a mysterious danger lurking hundreds of miles away.

“Even if the numbers stopped right now, we still have a long way to go, so the work isn’t gonna end,” said Fougeres. “We’ll be figuring out which tests and which analyses we need to conduct and we’re going to move forward with that.”

Whatever is happening, there is no known threat to people swimming.

Comments (22)
  1. Greg Heller says:

    I hope they have considered the possibility of the widespread effects of the Red Tide Blooms that have been happening all Along the Noted Areas. A Week after one episode of Red Tide, my friends dog, haven eaten a portion of a dead fish with symptoms of Red Tide Poisoning, & the poor dog suffered horribly before having to be put down.

    There are many other instances of mammals, land & sea, dying or sick, from the residual effects of Red Tide. Please look into those possibilities.

  2. Julie Emn Howell says:

    The key phrase as to the deaths of the dolphins is: “…the lingering effects of the BP oil spill in 2010.”

  3. Tim Pentowski says:

    So I guess they’ll just blame global warming (and Trump) and call it a day?

    1. Jonathan Strauss says:

      No Tim, I’ll blame you. It’s your fault for not giving a flying …

  4. Jason Schroeder says:

    Corexit ring a bell? No threat to swimmers? except for the flesh eating virus…Hard pass on swimming in the gulf.

  5. dpbarr2000 says:

    A lot of suppositions and no facts. There was no oil slick on the Gulf coast from Deepwater Horizon. Oh yes lets blame “climate change” on 300 dolphins out of how many hundreds of thousands or millions in the Gulf. Liberalism is a mental disorder.

    1. Robert Denis says:

      Obviously liberals don’t need facts or common sense. Bernie Sanders now proposing free college tuition for illegals.

  6. Julia Young says:

    New concerns may NOT be from oil spill. They may stem from crop runoff residue containing glyphosate, leaching into Mississippi River. Soybeans and other crops like corn, oats, etc have been heavily sprayed with glyphosate containing chemicals to defoliate foliage. Crops now use genetically modified seeds so they can be harvested cheaply after defoliation. Glyphosate, like Monsanto’s banned Agent Orange, is a herbicide that kills weeds and foliage. To use it on crops without killing the actual seed or grain plant, seeds must be genetically modified to withstand glyphosate herbicide spray applications. Land along the MS River bank is heavy with farmland crops using modified seeds to grow crops containing glyphosate resistant food crops. Glyphosate is now listed as non-biodegradable. Banned in Canada but not USA glyphosate use has risen here although it was recently proven to increase cancer risks in humans by 41%. It may harm sea creatures like Dolphins with lesions. Symptoms in humansl who used the chemical over long periods often suffer rashes or lesions and certain types of cancer..
    Worth checking out?
    #Erin Fougeres Administrator- NOAA or #Moby Solangi-director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies