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Beachgoers Report Jet-Skiers Harassing Dolphins off LBI

State: recent rash of dolphin deaths may be linked to virus

Beachgoers in Long Beach Township on Friday notified authorities of what they believed were people on jet-skis harassing dolphins swimming in the ocean, police confirmed.

Scanner chatter from the incident indicated a beach patrol captain alerted the New Jersey State Police after witnessing the activity.

State Police Sgt. Brian Polite said a trooper from the marine bureau took his patrol boat out to the scene of where the call came in but by the time he arrived the jet-skiers had already left.

The report officially went "unfounded," Polite said.

Alliance For a Living Ocean, an environmental group based on Long Beach Island, said in a social media post that staff there received reports of the incident as well.

"Not only is this behavior unconscionable but it is also against the law," the group said.

21 Dolphins Found Dead Since July

The report of dolphin harassment comes amid a period of time where a spike in dolphin deaths have been observed.

Since July 9, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center has responded to 21 dolphin deaths along the New Jersey coast, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday.

The stranding center, based in Brigantine, responds to dolphin strandings statewide and is working with the DEP to determine why an unusually high number of dolphins are turning up dead from Sandy Hook to Cape May.

Four of the 21 dolphins have died of penumonia, the statement said.

Federal officials are looking into "larger than normal numbers" of dolphin deaths in New Jersey and other Mid-Atlantic states, the DEP said, though there it is not yet known if there is a connection between the New Jersey deaths and those in neighboring states.

In one of the recovered dolphins, Morbillivirus, a naturally occurring virus in dolphin populations, was found. Results are pending on additional dolphins to help determine if morbillivirus is present in those animals.

The virus was linked to the deaths of 90 dolphins in 1987 off New Jersey, according to DEP figures.

"Dolphins swim close together in pods. Diseases spread between animals when they surface to breathe," said Robert Schoelkopf, Director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

DEP officials, as well as Schoelkopf, said the death were most likely not caused by any water quality issues.

"There is no evidence that the deaths we are seeing this summer are in any way related to water quality," he said.

The public is being urged to stay away from dead dolphins since sharks often feed on their carcasses. Likewise, beachgoers should keep their pets away from dead dolphins if found, said Schoelkopf.

If you see a dead or dying dolphin, contact the Marine Mammal Stranding Center's 24-hour hotline at 609-266-0538.
OCTeaParty August 02, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Don't throw the meat away. Mahi mahi (dolphin) is delicious.
Linda August 02, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Mahi mahi are also known as dorado or dolphin fish. However, they are not at all related to dolphins. Dolphins are air-breathing mammals, whereas mahi mahi are water-breathing fish, distantly related to perch. They are good food fish, similar to flounder and other whitefish. (Wikipedia)
OCTeaParty August 02, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Linda, trust me, both are delicious.

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