At least six dolphins have become stranded on Orange County beaches this month!
In a news release, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center said that it is working with scientists to figure out what’s causing dolphins to suddenly wash ashore in such high numbers. The organization said that one potential cause may be the recent rainstorms that have hit Southern California this winter, which can make the ocean water toxic.
The series of beached dolphin rescues began on February 4 when three common dolphins were found on Huntington and Laguna beaches by the PMMC. Unfortunately, Two of the dolphins had to be euthanized. About a week later, a dead bottlenose dolphin was found at Corona Del Mar leading to the discovery of another departed common dolphin five days later – both sea creatures were pregnant. Last year, the organization only responded to one stranded dolphin. Seal and sea lion rescues have also increased significantly this season.
In addition to performing autopsies on the animals, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center is working with the National Oceanic, Atmospheric Administration and universities across the country to find an answer as to why the dolphins are washing to shore. Possible culprits can be viral infections, bacterial infections or poisonous toxins released by recent algae blooms along the Southern California coast.
The organization also believes that the abundance of recent heavy rains may also be a plausible cause, seeing as rain runoff from the land could excess nutrients and harmful toxins into the ocean. However, the answer to this devastating situation cannot be determined until studies and necropsies are complete.
It’s important to remember that marine mammals can carry zoonotic diseases which can be transmitted to pets and humans, especially young children. Attempting to push beach animals back into the ocean “may actually be doing more harm than good”, so if you see a stranded marine mammal please call the organization at (949) 494-3050.
Also published on Medium.