The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies has confirmed that a fourth baby dolphin has washed ashore on Horn Island, The island, one of the longest in the chain that comprises the Gulf Islands National Seashore Park, is about 12 miles south of Ocean Springs. Three baby dolphins were pinpointed Monday and a fourth was reported today by National Resource Advisory employees who are working with BP cleanup crews on the island.
Researchers with the IMMS are headed to the island now to take tissue samples and possibly remove the bodies back for studies.
These infant dolphins are among the 18 reported since January.
The four are also among the 28 total adult and infant dolphins reported since the beginning of the year. None of the dead adults were pregnant females.
The industry’s leading scientist on marine mammal strandings is concerned about these deaths.
Blair Mase, NOAA’s marine mammal stranding coordinator for the Southeast region, confirmed that the number of baby dolphin deaths is high.
She said the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies reports all its findings to her.
So far this calving season, 18 infant dolphins have either been stillborn or died shortly after birth.
“We’re definitely keeping a close eye on this situation,” Mase said. “We’re comparing this to previous years, trying to find out what’s going on here.”
She said this is the time of the year that she sees death in young dolphins, because it is the beginning of the birthing season. But really, the normal birthing season is a little later in the year, she said.
“We’re trying to determine if we do in fact have still births,” she said. There are more in Mississippi than in Alabama and Louisiana.
“With the oil spill, it is difficult,” she said. “We’re trying to determine what’s causing this. It could be infectious related. Or it could be non-infection.
“We run the gamut of causes,” she said, including human impact, which would include the oil spill; infectious disease and bio-toxins,
IMMS has been conducting necropsies on the baby dolphins and sharing the findings with Mase.