A heavily decomposed dolphin washed up against the rocks along Dauphin Island's Katrina Cut. The carcass, one of two found in Alabama in March, is included among more than 600 dolphins that have died in what federal scientists are calling an "unusual mortality event." Scientists believe the BP oil spill has played a role in the ongoing die off. Ben Raines / Press-RegisterBy Ben Raines, Press-Register
5 April 2012

The stench of death was heavy along the rocks of Dauphin Island's Katrina Cut last week. Midway across the mile-wide rock wall, wedged between two boulders at the water’s edge, a dolphin carcass washed back and forth in the gentle waves.

Most of its backbone protruded from skin bleached white by the sun. It was the third carcass found by Press-Register reporters in the last year.

The animal was one of four found dead last week along the Gulf Coast. Another was found on Petit Bois Island in Mississippi, and two more were found in Louisiana.

Among scientists, March is known as the height of the stranding season, meaning more dolphins are found dead in March than any other month. Scientists say death tolls are higher in March due largely to the stresses of calving season.

For the last two years, dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico have reached record levels. Scientists believe complications stemming from the BP oil spill are largely to blame.

In a recent conference call, federal scientists investigating the ongoing die off described dolphins caught a heavily oiled Louisiana marsh as “very sick.” No dolphins from Alabama or Mississippi have been subjected to the rigorous examinations conducted in Louisiana.

The good news, at least in Alabama, is that the pace of deaths this year appears to have slowed down compared to 2011 and 2010. One dolphin was found in Alabama on March 6, and one was found on March 28, which scientists said was close to the average number found before the BP oil spill.

“From my perspective, the story is really that dolphin are still occasionally washing up, but this is the normal stranding season,” said Ruth Carmichael, head of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s dolphin stranding team. “Things look pretty normal in Alabama right now. We can’t say based on what we’re seeing that this is more than just the normal stranding we’d expect to see.”

The situation is different in Mississippi and Louisiana. There, according to federal data, strandings remain much higher than normal. Twenty-four dolphins washed up in Mississippi between January and March, compared to a normal average of just 20 for the entire year. In Louisiana, 43 dolphins have washed up so far this year, compared to a normal annual average of 20.

In 2011, there were 111 dead dolphins found in Mississippi, about twice as many as in Alabama, where 59 were found. There were 159 found in Louisiana last year. […]

Pace of dolphin die off slows in Alabama


  1. killing Mother said...

    I read this and the scientist part of my brain has an inkling that the reduced numbers of deaths off the Alabama coast are probably due to the fact that the overall population has been sadly, dramatically reduced by man's atrocities. The continued die-off in other areas shows that the problem persists. Here's wishing karmic redemption to those who poisoned the Gulf with crude and then poisoned it even worse with dispersants to cover up their original crimes. May they all die slow, suffocating deaths in toxic soup.  


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