A spike in dolphin deaths at the Jersey Shore could be attributed to a virus, state officials said.
July 9, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center has responded to 21 dolphin
deaths along the New Jersey coast, a spokesman for the state Department
of Environmental Protection said Thursday.
The stranding center,
based in Brigantine, responds to dolphin strandings statewide and is
working with the DEP to determine why an unusually high number of
dolphins are turning up dead from Sandy Hook to Cape May.
Four of the 21 dolphins have died of penumonia, the statement said.
officials are looking into "larger than normal numbers" of dolphin
deaths in New Jersey and other Mid-Atlantic states, the DEP said, though
there it is not yet known if there is a connection between the New
Jersey deaths and those in neighboring states.
In one of the
recovered dolphins, Morbillivirus, a naturally occurring virus in
dolphin populations, was found. Results are pending on additional
dolphins to help determine if morbillivirus is present in those animals.
The virus was linked to the deaths of 90 dolphins in 1987 off New Jersey, according to DEP figures.
"Dolphins swim close together in pods. Diseases
spread between animals when they surface to breathe," said Robert
Schoelkopf, Director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
DEP officials, as well as
Schoelkopf, said the death were most likely not caused by any water quality issues.
"There is no evidence that the deaths we are seeing this summer are in any way related to water quality," he said.
public is being urged to stay away from dead dolphins since sharks
often feed on their carcasses. Likewise, beachgoers should keep their
pets away from dead dolphins if found, said
If you see a dead or dying dolphin, contact the Marine Mammal Stranding Center's 24-hour hotline at 609-266-0538.