Mass Dolphin Die-Off on the East Coast

Animals are dying at a rate 7 times higher than usual

Group of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins (Sheilapic76/Flickr)
Photo: Sheilapic76/Flickr DOLPHIN SYNERGY Dolphins Group Blue Calm Mammals Family Atlantic Spotted Dolphins Stenella Plagiodon Gentle Tranquil

From Virginia to New York, dolphins are dying at seven times the normal rate, with at least 124 strandings reported since July, wildlife officials reported Thursday. In response to the die-off, the National Marine Fisheries Service declared a federal "unusual mortality event," mobilizing funding to analyze the incidents.

While researchers are unclear as to what is responsible for the spike in deaths, they believe that some of the dolphins have suffered from a measles-like "morbillivirus." Similar infections have been responsible for other die-offs in seals and dolphins.

"This is the highest number that we have had for this time of year since 1987," Susan Barco, the research coordinator for the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, told USA Today. More than 740 bottlenose dolphins died in that year's outbreak.

In April, officials also declared an "unusual mortality event" in response to a series of stranding in Florida that saw 51 emaciated dolphins die.

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