Dolphins Dying In Record Numbers, Government Shutdown Stalls Investigation

The record number of dolphin deaths in the mid-Atlantic doesn’t look set to cease, and the recent government shutdown means that an investigation into the devastation is likely to be stalled.

The amount of bottlenose dolphins to perish during the die-off has now passed 600 and it has just reached its fourth month.

The government shutdown now means that scientists and researchers are currently unable to investigate the dolphin carcasses that they have at their disposal, which will help them figure out why so many are currently dying.

Mark Swingle, the director of research and conservation at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, told NBC News, “If this [shutdown] runs into weeks and longer, we’re talking about significant impacts to our ability to investigate this mortality event.”

The shutdown means that volunteers are now unable to help clear the dead dolphins from the coastline, and despite the fact that the number is starting to decrease, it’s still extremely high for this time of year.

However, researchers have admitted that they are now beginning to run out of room in their freezers, which they use to stash the dolphins that they can’t examine within 24 hours.

Swingle noted, “We’re getting in so many animals, and these animals are big,” before confirming that their freezers will probably be completely full in two weeks, which means they won’t be able to examine newly deceased dolphins.

Speculation continues to swirl over the reasons for the deaths, while Dina Fine Maron, a writer for Scientific American, has suggested that some researchers blame a “coastal ecosystem, possibly sickened by human activity.”

NOAA Fisheries stated in late August that the dolphins are currently dying as a result of the morbilivirus, and this lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare an Unusual Mortality Event to try and figure out the cause.

This virus previously struck in 1988, when 700 dolphins died, but scientists inability to search for causes have lead them to fear that the epidemic could soon get much worse.

[Image via round the world/Shutterstock]