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Although dolphin strandings are fairly common this time of year, the members of the Marine Mammal Rescue and Research (MMRR) team at the International Fund for Animal Welfare say they’ve never seen anything like it in the past two weeks.
This has been the largest stranding of a single species on record in the Northeast Region of the US, said Katie Moore, manager of MMRR Program.
As of January 12, more than one hundred and thirty common dolphins have stranded on the sand flats along a five-mile stretch of beaches on Cape Cod. So far, nearly forty dolphins have been successfully released back into open waters on the Outer Cape. The other dolphins either died upon stranding or shortly after being found.
The mass strandings are baffling the MMRR team. Dolphin strandings tend to be higher during the winter. What’s unprecedented is the high number of dolphins that have stranded and the fact they have been stranding themselves over such an extended period.
Several possibilities have been suggested for the strandings: a warmer than usual winter, biotoxins, illness, noise pollution, or climate change to name a few.
IFAW’s MMRR team is continuing to rescue as many dolphins as possible. Some of the dolphins are fitted with satellite tags before their release. The tags enable the MMRR team to monitor their movements and to find out whether the dolphins re-beach themselves, as they sometimes do. The tags, which drop off after a few weeks, currently indicate that many of the freed dolphins have moved up the coast into waters off Maine.
The MMRR team is also collecting data from the dead dolphins to help determine the cause of these strandings and further research into ways to prevent this type of mass stranding from occurring again.
Photo: IFAW team performs successful triage on stranded dolphins.