Subject: Drug Sellers Eyed in Sea Death (fwd)

Michael Williamson (pita@whale.simmons.edu)
Sat, 15 Feb 1997 16:59:37 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 97 21:26:00 GMT 
From: r.mallon1@genie.com
To: marmam@uvvm.uvic.ca, pita@whale.simmons.edu
Subject: Drug Sellers Eyed in Sea Death

Drug Sellers Eyed in Sea Deaths

By MARK STEVENSON
 Associated Press Writer
   MEXICO CITY (AP) -- A chemical that drug traffickers use to mark
ocean drop sites may to be blame for the mysterious deaths of
dozens of dolphins and whales off Mexico's west coast, scientists
said Friday.
   Forty-two dolphins were found dead on beaches near Culiacan on
Mexico's northern Pacific on Friday; at least three dead whales
have been discovered in the same area in the last week.
   Fishermen also are reporting schools of dead sardines floating
in the Gulf of California.
   Biologist Benito Mejia of the University of Sinaloa said in a
telephone interview that the whales were probably heading into the
Gulf to breed when they died.
   Scientists say they are looking into a cyanide-based chemical
used by drug traffickers as a possible explanation for the die-off,
the largest reported in at least a year.
   The phosphorescent chemical, known as Natural Killer-19 or
"NK-19," is used to guide low-flying aircraft to areas in the
ocean where bales of drugs have been dumped from passing ships.
   Jaime Loya Chairez, an assistant to the state attorney general's
office, was quoted by the daily Noroeste de Culiacan as saying that
NK-19 was probably the cause.
   However, Greenpeace Mexico director Roberto Lopez says a
combination of pollutants may be responsible for the deaths, which
he says are not uncommon in the area.
   He cited the discharge of waste from local fish-packing plants,
emissions of pesticides and antibiotics from coastal shrimp farms
and agricultural and residential waste running directly into the
ocean.
   The decomposed state of most of the mammals washed ashore on the
Tetuan and Novolato beaches may complicate the investigation. The
first of the dead whales to wash up Feb. 7 near a tourist beach has
already been towed to a dump.
   "We are sending a team to take samples from the animals, to
check chemical and pollution levels," said biologist Luis Miguel
Flores, director of the School of Ocean Sciences at the University
of Sinaloa.
   "The case is very strange, because the waters off these coasts
are deep, which tends to rule out the animals having beached
themselves," he said.
   Mexico City environmental activist Homero Aridjis contends that
the Mexican government may be ignoring NK-19 as a possible cause
because of the sensitive nature of drug trafficking in U.S.-Mexico
relations.