A widespread die-off of bottlenose dolphins off the Mid-Atlantic Coast — the worst of its kind in more than a quarter-century — almost certainly is the work of a virus that killed more than 740 dolphins in the same region in 1987 and 1988, marine scientists said Tuesday.
Since the beginning of July, 357 dead or dying dolphins have washed ashore from New York to North Carolina — 186 of them in Virginia. Authorities have received numerous additional reports of carcasses floating in the ocean, said Teri Rowles, director of the marine mammal health and stranding response program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service. The actual number of deaths is certainly greater, she said.
The cause is thought to be cetacean morbillivirus, which has been confirmed or is suspected in 32 of 33 dolphins tested, she said. Marine officials are looking at the possibility of other factors, including high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and other chemicals in the water, but have not linked the die-off to anything else.