Mass Stranding of Dolphins continues at Cape Cod

News from Cape Cod has been tragic since the beginning of the year. In the last three weeks 129 Dolphins have breached with 92 dying. Rescuers fear more stranding might occur in the next few days with this being the single largest stranding of dolphins in the Northeast since at least 1999.

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, on Sunday, four dolphins were stranded along Cape Cod’s hook-shaped peninsula and were quickly helped back to sea.

Every year there are a number of dolphins that get stranded in the peninsula, but Katie Moore the IFAW marine mammal rescue manager says the 129 strandings recorded this year in just one month are usually the total number of stranding occurring in a year.

“This event started on the 12th and is still continuing,” she added at a press conference on Monday, noting that rescuers from IFAW and other stranding networks were deployed in “anticipation of more dolphins coming in.”

Teri Rowles, who coordinates The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program said that this is the largest, most protracted stranding event in recent decades of the common dolphins.

The rescuers are puzzled as to why so many of dolphins are stranding this year as the animals appear to be in good health. One probable reason might be that because of their social nature, when one dolphin is moving towards the shore lines, others are also following. Additionally weather and tides too might be the reason.

“I don’t know,” Moore said when asked about causes. “It pains me to say those three words.”

She added that climate change could be a reason, but it cannot be said definitely. Earlier when 9 of the stranded dolphins were clinically tested, the investigations did not give any clear reason for the breaching. Human interferences like sonic waves have not been recently reported near the Cape Cod which might trouble the dolphins.

This stranding “is not only out of the ordinary,” she said, “but it takes a huge toll on our resources. It’s hard labor.”

Rowles noted that “Cape Cod is the hot spot in North America” for mass strandings, and that “there seems to be a lot of variability each year.”

The large numbers have “made the response effort very difficult” and “left us confused about what’s going on,” IFAW biologist C.T. Harry said.

IFAW noted through satellite tags that those dolphins that were rescued have continued to stay in deeper waters and not come back to the area. They have urged congress to not cut the federal program that funds stranding research and response networks nationwide.

“If scientists do not have the funds to determine the cause of a mass mortality event, there could be a threat to public health without anyone knowing,” IFAW President Fred O’Regan wrote on his blog last week.

Even as scientists puzzle over the probable cause of the mass beaching, rescuers continue to labour night and day to save as many of the dolphins as they can each day.