Info: Dolphin Deaths

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 11 Jan 1996 17:09:41

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Date: Wed, 10 Jan 1996 20:33:44 -0500 (EST)
From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
Subject: Info:  Dolphin Deaths
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From:	SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET"  9-JAN-1996 10:07:38.00
Subj:	Mass death of dolphins puzzles
Date:         Tue, 9 Jan 1996 06:58:13 -0800
Reply-To:     Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
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Subject:      Mass death of dolphins puzzles
To:           Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Mass death of dolphins puzzles Mauritanians
    By Ibrahima Syla
     NOUAKCHOTT (Reuter) - The discovery of the decomposing
bodies of more than 100 dolphins on the Mauritania coast has
puzzled scientists and fishermen in the Arab African country.
     Fishermen came across the macabre scene on the coastal
stretch between the capital Noakchott and Nouadhibou.
     Local newspapers have dished out horror tales suggesting
dragnets from foreign trawlers fishing for sharks killed the
dolphins, washed ashore in the last week of December.
     "Dolphin carcases line the beach for nearly three
kilometres," wrote the Mauritanie-Nouvelles in a report from
the fishing village of Tiliwitt.
     "On close examination it appears some of the dolphins had
not even been fully grown. By their side, nets and cords which
probably dragged them either after their death or as they
struggled in agony to get back into the sea. A futile struggle
for life," the newspaper added.
     Government scientists have discounted the dragnet theory,
suggesting a virus may have killed the dolphins which form part
the rich marine life of Mauritania's Atlantic waters.
     But even the scientists wonder why such a virus spared fish,
birds or other animals depending on the sea for food.
     "No lesions characteristic of mortal wounds were noticed on
the cetaceans and no deaths have been noticed among other marine
animals," said Sidi el Moktar Ahmed Taleb, director of the
National Oceanic and Fisheries Research Center (CNROP).
     "An autopsy was carried out on the body of one of the
dolphins, which was in an advanced stage of decomposition,"
Ahmed Taleb said. "Some unusual lesions were found in the
digestive tube. But the stomach was empty, suggesting that the
animal had not fed for some days."
     Parasitic infections were also found in the stomach by
center researchers who braved bad weather to carry out
examinations on other bodies on the beach and at sea.
     The center is still carrying out further examinations while
some specimens have been sent to the University of Rotterdam for
more extensive analysis.
     Fishermen in the area have been pondering the tragedy and
have offered probable causes ranging from dragnets to poisoned
seaweed or mullets which abound there. But a majority have been
categoric in pointing a finger at dragnets.
     An elderly local fisherman, contradicting the scientists,
told the newspaper that the dolphins must have been killed by
"turning nets" because there were scratches on their bodies.
     Fishermen in the area are known to have a special
relationship with dolphins who help point them to where to find
large colonies of mullet, on which the dolphins feed.
     Other fishermen speculated shark hunters were the culprits.
Sharks are sought for their fins which are delicacies in
restaurants around the globe. The rest of their carcases are
thrown back into the sea, possibly poisoning the water.
     Mauritanians, notably fishermen, consider dolphins as part
of their national patrimony and the mass deaths have sent a
shockwave through fishing communities in the country.