Lots of Strandings Lately

Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute is getting in on research into the recent strandings of two bottlenose dolphin in the Indian River Lagoon as well as a pygmy sperm whale on the Atlantic beachside in Volusia county from the past weekend.  So far this year we have had 75 strandings in the state of Florida.  2009 records show just 55 were recorded of dolphins and whales, although there have been years in the past with as many as a hundred animals discovered washed ashore.

Researchers suspect this year’s count may be due to the seriously cold weather we sustained back in February and March when we lost hundreds of sea turtles and manatees and suffered enormous fish kills.   In fact a full fifty of this years’ seventy-five total strandings were reported from the first half of the year when the cold weather was most at work weakening older animals or potentially making it hard for these big predators to find their favorite foods.

While harmful algae blooms are sometimes the culprit in stranded marine mammals (they inhale toxins concentrated at the surface when they rise to breathe) it doesnt appear to be the case for the trio recently pulled in.  And while they were thin, they werent starving.

I continue to see a semi-residential pod of bottlenose off of Kelly Park in the Banana River portion of the lagoon in the morning hours as they herd mullet inshore to feed, and their numbers have seemed to hold fairly steady at five to seven members.   Here’s hoping this uptick in stranding reports is precisely what it appears to be – a natural fluctuation due to cold weather, and not something more like a new outbreak of disease.