New Study May Find What's Killing Bottlenose Dolphins In Mississippi Sound - - The News for South Mississippi

New Study May Find What's Killing Bottlenose Dolphins In Mississippi Sound

For first time ever there is a concerted effort to find out what is killing dolphins in the Mississippi Sound. The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is using a $276,000 state grant to study what effect development has on dolphins. On Tuesday the Institute invited state and local agencies to an organizational meeting in Gulfport. Most of the people who respond to calls about beached dolphins are volunteers. So collecting information on what may have caused the animals to end that way has been difficult. Researchers say now that they have the money, they hope to get to the bottom of the problem.

Marine Life in Gulfport is one way South Mississippians get an up close look at the bottlenose dolphins. Another way is when dolphins turned up stranded on the beach. Officials with the Department of Marine Resources say every year about 15 to 20 dolphins are found dead on the shore. No one knows what's killing them.

"A lot of times it is pretty frustrating," said Brandon Hall, who is charge of caring for stranded animals for D.M.R. "A lot of people in the public want to know right when I'm responding and working an animal up. They want to know why is this animal dead, and I can't give them an answer."

An answer could come from a year long study by the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. Researchers will be look for common trends among the beached animals by examining tissue samples and studying their habitat.

Researcher Dr. Moby Solangi said "This is an approach where we're actually going to look for stranded animals. In the past we have waited for people to call and let us know that something had stranded. So we're going to do a systematic analysis of the stranding and their causes in the Mississippi Sound."

To get maximum results, researchers have asked state and local agencies like the Harrison County Sheriff's Department to be their eyes and ears in the Mississippi Sound. Some of those who jumped on board the study say the health of the dolphins affects the entire coast.

Harrison County Sheriff's deputy Robert Cox is in charge of the departments marine division. He said "If one of them is infected with diseases of anything like that, the public may come across them or something. So they can get their study to tell if something in particular is killing the mammals that's washing up or if it's humans injuring them."

Researchers say during the year there are anywhere from one to two thousand bottlenose dolphins in the Mississippi Sound. Once the study is finished it will be published and provided to the state.

If people do come across a stranded animal they should not to touch it. It could be diseased and pose a health risk.

by Danielle Thomas

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