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Dolphin and seal bloodbath on US shores

Dolphin and seal bloodbath on US shores

Dozens of dolphins and hundreds of seals have been stranded on the beaches of Florida and the northeastern United States in the last two months, US authorities announced Friday.

Two surveys have been launched to understand the origin of these deaths, which stretch over several thousand kilometers, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A total of 48 dolphins were found dead on the southwest coast of Florida between July 1 and August 30, according to NOAA, as well as hundreds of tonnes of dead fish. The cause is a "red tide" apparently caused by the micro algae Kareniabrevis, a microscopic unicellular organism, mostly present in the Gulf of Mexico, which produces a neurotoxin.

 

Usually, the number of dolphins stranded in the area is three or four per month. Autopsies performed on ten dolphins confirmed the presence of Karenia brevis, which shows that the deaths "are probably related to the red tide," said Teri Rowles, head of an NOAA program on marine mammal health, during a conference call with the press.

 

Dolphin and seal bloodbath on US shores

Epizootic strikes seals

Much further north, on the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, and northern Massachusetts, an epizootic of an infectious disease strikes seals.

Since July, 599 cases of stranded seals, including 462 dead, have been counted, with hundreds of unconfirmed cases, according to Teri Rowles. Some of the seals were infected with an avian influenza virus or another virus similar to canine distemper, also known as "seal plague," which decimated seals in the North Sea in 2002, among others. The authorities do not yet want to conclude on the reasons for the death of seals in such numbers. That is one of the reasons they launched investigations.

 

It is recommended that tourists do not approach dead animals on the beaches, to avoid any risk of contamination for themselves or their pets. Although the virus strains have not been identified, "we assume that any influenza virus has the potential to (move from animals to humans) until proven otherwise," said Michele Walsh, a veterinarian in the department of Maine State Agriculture.

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