PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - The body of an infant dolphin was discovered along the shoreline in Pass Christian Wednesday, marking the eighth baby mammal to wash ashore in the past week.
According to the director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Dr. Moby Solangi, the number of infant dolphin standings in 2016 is "more than all of the last two years." Solangi says that in 2015, 35 dead dolphin were found along the Mississippi Coast. Just two days before April in 2016, that number stands at 46.
"The dolphins are on top of the food chains and serve as a biological indicator of the environment. They are the canary in the mine. So whatever happens to them, will ultimately happen to us, so it's very important for us to find out what's going on with these marine mammals," said Solangi.
The number of dolphin deaths are on pace to eclipse 2010, the year of the Gulf Oil spill when 65 dolphin died in Mississippi waters.
Solangi points to the Red Tide algal bloom in the Gulf last fall as a likely factor in the deaths of the infant dolphin.
"Red tide enters food chain and slowly effects the larger animals. One of the effects of red tide is it causes mother to abort or deliver early," Solangi said.
Dolphin have a 11 to 12 month gestation period. Those that became pregnant last spring are delivering now, according to Solangi. The latest dead baby dolphin was found South of Clarence Avenue in Pass Christian.
IMMS sends tissue samples and other information to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for analysis. Residents who find a dolphin in distress or deceased, should report it to IMMS at 1-888-DOLPHIN.