Delaware marine conservationists on alert following East Coast dolphin deaths

As New Jersey officials continue to investigate the mysterious deaths of two dozen bottle nose dolphins along the state’s coast line, Delaware marine conservationists are on “high alert.”

Susan Thurman, director of The Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institution, said Delaware experienced a spike in the number of baby dolphin deaths in the spring and have seen an average number of strandings this summer.

During peak stranding time (late May-June), Thurman said 10 dead calves were found, a 50 percent increase over the typical number of deaths.

She said the summer numbers have been back to normal with only a few strandings reported. However, the organization is keeping a close eye on the dolphin deaths reported in New Jersey and Virginia.

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“It’s a reasonable concern, particularly with New Jersey because we share the Delaware Bay, so to speak,” Thurman explained. “So oftentimes we will see similar incidents. However, New Jersey is further north and sometimes has a completely set of factors that contribute to these strandings.”

Thurman said they’re awaiting results from necropsies preformed on dolphins in both states.

“That will help to determine if there’s a common link between the causes of the strandings in New Jersey and possibly Virginia,” she explained.

In the meantime, she said, volunteer teams have been established in case an incident occurs.

“We’re on alert,” she said. “Our stranding team is on alert and we’re just waiting to see what happens and trying to be as prepared as we can.”

Thurman added that boaters are reporting an increased number of dolphin sightings along the Indian River Bay and Rehoboth Bay.

“It could be that there are more of them or it could be that reporting procedures are better,” she said.

Anyone who comes across an injured, distressed or deceased marine animal, such as dolphins, sea lions, turtles or whales, should report the incident as quickly as possible to the MERR Institute at (302) 228-5029.

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