Dolphin die-off stretches Virginia Aquarium resources

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by Eric Kane, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on August 19, 2013 at 11:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 20 at 3:35 PM

*Update: Officials said one dolphin washed ashore in Ocean View and another at the Oceanfront Tuesday.  Both were deceased and their condition is unknown.

VIRGINIA BEACH -- The Virginia Aquarium is struggling to find the resources to keep up with the increasing amount of dead dolphins washing ashore.

This past weekend 25 dolphins were stranded along Virginia’s coast, bringing the grisly toll of dead dolphins to 164, according to the Virginia Aquarium.

"We're at kind of crises phase, our staff is operating at max capacity as well as our volunteers," said Joan Barns, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Aquarium.
 
The Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response Team is responsible for collecting all of the deceased mammals throughout the state. The aquarium is now asking the public for help to keep the team running.
 
The team is made up of dozens of volunteers and a handful of staff members, all of whom have had their hands full these past few weeks. As bodies continue to wash up, the aquarium says it needs financial help from the public to keep the team running.
 
"Our funding for the year, for marine mammal strandings has already been spent," Barns told 13News Now, explaining donations will be used to purchase additional supplies, and possibly fund another staff position.
 
The mass dolphin die-off continues to baffle scientists. Initially, researchers thought a virus may be to blame, but no definitive conclusions have been made.
 
"It's really too early to say if the Morbillivirus virus is responsible for this because at this point we only have three dolphins that have tested positive for that,” explained Barns.
 
So far this year, Virginia has seen the highest amount of stranded dolphins compared to other states along the east coast.
 
"You have to keep in mind that Virginia has a lot of shoreline, especially when you include the lower Chesapeake Bay area. That coupled with the fact that we have a high dolphin population in the summer, it kind of makes sense that we have been hit the hardest,” said Barns.

If you come across a stranded dolphin you can reach the Stranding Response Team at 757-385-7575.  
 

 

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