Three more dolphins have washed up along the Jersey Shore, bringing the statewide total to 71 since July.
The Asbury Park Press reports that officials Sunday found dead dolphins at Island Beach State Park, Stone Harbor, and an area off the bay in Strathmere.
On Saturday, officials found two dead dolphins in Sea Girt and Brigantine.
The senior technician with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, Jay Pagel, says it’s the “same thing that’s been happening” since July 9.
In Ocean City earlier this month, a shark took a bite out of a dying dolphin struggling in knee-deep water, Marine Mammal Stranding Center Director Robert Schoelkopf told Jersey Shore Hurricane News and NewsWorks in a recent interview.
“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.
From New Jersey south to Virginia, more than 230 dolphin deaths have been reported dead. A precise cause for the deaths is still unknown.
Schoelkopf has previously said that some of the stricken marine mammals tested positive for morbillivirus, a naturally occurring virus in dolphin populations.
“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.”
The deaths have been declared an “unusual mortality event” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.