On the heels of three dolphins found deceased Friday, additional deaths were reported Saturday at the Jersey Shore.
NBC10 reports that “severely decomposed dolphins” washed ashore in Long Beach Township and Upper Township, bringing the total to 52 since July 9.
“Saw a dead beached dolphin in Holgate today. Very sad,” wrote Jersey Shore Hurricane News contributor Nancy Diehl Young. “It was left on beach for an hour plus so everyone could see him and nobody bothered to cover him up. A bulldozer with a person in it and lifeguards all around. He was very badly decomposed/injured, and it was so disheartening to see.”
On Friday, dead dolphins were found in Seaside Heights, Longport, and Stone Harbor, and staffers from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) in Brigantine responded to each location, according to an Asbury Park Press report.
MMSC Director Robert Schoelkopf recently spoke with Jersey Shore Hurricane News and NewsWorks about why he thinks the deaths are occurring, offering a stern warning to not enter the ocean to help any dolphins.
In Ocean City last week, a shark took a bite out of a dying dolphin struggling in knee-deep water, Schoelkopf said.
“We were lucky because just before the dolphin appeared, we had a severe lighting storm and lifeguards blew their whistles to get people out of the water,” he said. “Someone in the crowd wading in the water could have been bitten.”
Understanding the danger, responders do not enter the water to recover sea life. Instead, they wait for the animal to wash ashore, Schoelkopf said.
Some of the dolphins have tested positive for morbillivirus, a naturally occurring virus in dolphin populations, according to Schoelkopf.
“Dolphins swim close together in pods. Diseases spread between animals when they surface to breathe,” Schoelkopf said in a July 2013 N.J. Department of Environmental Protection release. “There is no evidence that the deaths we are seeing this summer are in any way related to water quality.”
About 150 dolphins have been recovered at beaches between New York and Virginia since July.