Nearly 100 Dolphins Dead Off Florida Coast

January 18, 2017
American Veterinarian Editorial Staff

Most of a large pod of dolphins have died after becoming stranded in shallow water off the southwest coast of Florida.

More than 80 false killer whales have died after becoming stranded in a shallow Gulf Coast mangrove beach off Everglades National Park in Monroe County, Florida.

The dolphins, which get their name from their resemblance to killer whales, are black without the white markings that distinguish their distant cousin. Smaller and much less aggressive than killer whales, these gentle animals can reach up to 1500 pounds and 20 feet in length. They travel in large groups in warm waters around the world.

Blair Mase, a stranding coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service, stated that 82 dolphins are confirmed dead, including adults, juveniles, and calves. The stranded dolphins were first spotted on Saturday by the US Coast Guard in a remote area called Hog Key. Efforts to herd the surviving dolphins to deeper water were unsuccessful.

This is the third and largest mass stranding of false killer whales in Florida. Regarding rescue efforts, Mase noted that the dolphins “are stranded in a very remote location … and we are dealing with sharks and things like that. It’s a very conscious effort.” Multiple groups are helping with rescue and recovery efforts, including the National Park Service, US Geological Survey, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and others.

The pod originally included 95 dolphins. Of the remaining dolphins, NOAA noted that 13 remain unaccounted for.

Why the pod became stranded remains a mystery that biologists will work in the coming months to solve.