Dolphin beaching in Florida followed sub's exercises


KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — The Navy and marine wildlife experts are investigating whether the beaching of dozens of dolphins in the Florida Keys followed the use of sonar by a submarine on a training exercise off the coast.

About 70 dolphins beached themselves in the Florida Keys after a submarine used sonar off the coast. By Rob O'Neal, Key West Citizen via AP

More than 20 rough-toothed dolphins have died since Wednesday's beaching by about 70 of the marine mammals, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary spokeswoman Cheva Heck said Saturday.

A day before the dolphins swam ashore, the USS Philadelphia had conducted exercises with Navy SEALs off Key West, about 45 miles from Marathon, where the dolphins became stranded.

Navy officials refused to say if the submarine, based at Groton, Conn., used its sonar during the exercise.

Some scientists surmise that loud bursts of sonar, which can be heard for miles in the water, may disorient or scare marine mammals, causing them to surface too quickly and suffer the equivalent of what divers know as the bends — when sudden decompression forms nitrogen bubbles in tissue.

"This is absolutely high priority," said Lt. Cdr. Jensin Sommer, spokeswoman for Norfolk, Va.-based Naval Submarine Forces. "We are looking into this. We want to be good stewards of the environment, and any time there are strandings of marine mammals, we look into the operations and locations of any ships that might have been operating in that area."

Experts are conducting necropsies on the dead dolphins, looking for signs of trauma that could have been inflicted by loud noises.

And this---

NOAA: Infection To Blame For Beached Dolphins Vets Euthanize 13 Sick Dolphins

POSTED: 2:43 pm EST March 4, 2005 UPDATED: 9:06 am EST March 5, 2005

MARATHON, Fla. -- Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday a mysterious infection is to blame for the more than 60 sick dolphins that beached themselves in Marathon Wednesday.

Veterinarians have been conducting blood tests and other medical assessments on the dolphins for two days now, while rescue workers and volunteers continue trying to save the animals.

Seven dolphins have died and dozens are being treated for dehydration. Thirteen dolphins were in such bad shape that they were euthanized Friday.

"We do not want to prolong the suffering of these animals any longer. We do have some healthy, viable animals that look like they are going to be very successful in rehab and we're going to be able to get them back out to the wild. We need to focus our effort on those animals," Sarah Gomez, of NOAA Fisheries, said.

Meanwhile, veterinarians said some of the dolphins were healthy enough to be released back to sea Friday.

At 9:30 p.m. Friday, two of the dolphins will be moved from the pen and taken to the Rosenstiel School on Virginia Key near Miami. Saturday morning, 19 of the remaining dolphins will be taken to two locations, one in Key West and one in Key Largo.

More than 60 rough-tooth dolphins were found on flats and sandbars and in a nearby canal Wednesday evening about a quarter-mile off Marathon.

By Thursday, most of the dolphins had been moved from just a few inches of water on the flats to the 15-foot-deep, mangrove-lined canal, said Denise Jackson, a member of the Marine Mammal Rescue Team.

"Some are free swimming and frolicking and having a good time," she said.

Boats brought most of the dolphins to the canal, though one hitched a ride on a stretcher in the back of a pickup truck, Jackson said.

Meanwhile, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office has closed the area of
88th Street in Marathon to everyone except those working with dolphin rescue groups.

Lt. Larry Kelley said no one will be allowed to enter the area except those with identification showing they are rescue workers, and those who live in the area.

"There are just too many people showing up in that area wanting to see the dolphins," he said. "It is extremely disruptive to the neighborhood and makes it very difficult for rescue groups to conduct their business, so we are closing the area to the general public."

Anyone who wants to volunteer in the dolphin rescue effort should call the Marine Mammal Conservancy at (305) 360-2130

Additional resources: //

Informant: Scott Munson


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