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Dolphin Deaths On The Rise In Maryland, Delaware & Virginia

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s an alarming trend. More than 100 dead dolphins have washed up on beaches up and down the East Coast, including here in Maryland.

Kai Jackson explains scientists aren’t sure why it’s happening.

Scientists are determined to get to the bottom of what’s killing these dolphins.

They are among the smartest mammals on the planet, yet tragically something is killing Atlantic bottle-nose dolphins in large numbers.

“There’s a number of things that cause an animal to strand. It could be bio-toxins; it could be disease; it could be human interaction with fishing gear,” said Maggie Mooney-Seus, NOAA.

Scientists say more than 120 dolphins have washed ashore between Virginia and New Jersey in the past two months. Virginia has seen the biggest spike: 42 dolphins died there in July alone. That’s compared with only 10 dying in Virginia in July of 2011 and 2012 combined.

“They die for a number of reasons including disease, including human interaction, such as with fishing vessels or with plastic ingestion of foreign bodies. We don’t know what’s causing this at this point,” said Dr. Brent Whitaker, National Aquarium.

In Maryland, 15 dead dolphins have been recovered so far this year; seven of those were in July alone.

Scientists are doing necropsies–the animal equivalent of an autopsy–to determine how the dolphins died. Tissue samples are being sent to specialized labs.

Some dolphins have been found alive and scientists are trying to nurse them back to health.

“Is there something that we can do? Is it a simple matter of getting the word out to people that there’s a behavior that we have to stop doing or something we need to change, otherwise this will continue? Or is it a natural process, a disease that is causing a process in these animals that we have no control over?” Whitaker said.

Most of the dolphins that have died are male and most have been found in the Chesapeake Bay.

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