In the past three weeks, an “unusually high” number of dolphin deaths have been reported off the Jersey coast, deaths that environmental experts believe can be traced to a natural disease cycle. The state Department of Environmental Protection is working with the nonprofit Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine to determine the cause of the deaths.
Water quality is not an issue, according to the DEP, since the state’s Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program, a joint state, local and federal effort, conducts routine testing of bathing beaches and reports that water quality has been excellent this year, with no closures of ocean beaches.
Dolphins have also been washing up along the costs of other Mid-Atlantic states.
In New Jersey, twenty bottlenose dolphins and one common dolphin have been reported dead or dying on or near beaches scattered from Monmouth County to Cape May. Some results already available show that four of the dolphins died of pneumonia. Morbillivirus, which naturally occurs in dolphin populations, was confirmed as the cause of death for one of the dolphins. Morbillivirus was linked to the deaths of 90 dolphins in 1987 off New Jersey.
Officials caution that the public should not approach the animals or bring them ashore, and pets should be kept away. Sick or dying dolphins can attract sharks.