On February 21, three baby dolphins were found dead on the shores of Horn Island, and on February 22 the finding of a fourth carcass was confirmed by The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS). This brings the amount of dead infant dolphins reported since January up to 18. Since the beginning of the year, 10 adult dolphins have also been found dead.
Located roughly 12 miles (20 km) south of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Horn Island is one of several islands that make up the Gulf Islands National Seashore Park. National Resource Advisory employees are currently working with BP cleanup crews on the island.
Blair Mase, marine mammal stranding coordinator at The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is concerned about the high number of wash up dead dolphins.
“We’re definitely keeping a close eye on this situation,” says Mase. “We’re comparing this to previous years, trying to find out what’s going on here.”
We are now early in the birthing season for dolphins in the area, and so far, 18 bodies of baby dolphins have been found where the baby was either stillborn or died shortly after birth.
“We’re trying to determine if we do in fact have still births,” says Mase. “There are more in Mississippi than in Alabama and Louisiana. With the oil spill, it is difficult. We’re trying to determine what’s causing this. It could be infectious related. Or it could be non-infection. We run the gamut of causes.”
The necropsy of the dead dolphins will hopefully help shed some light on the situation.