As the unusual mass stranding of common dolphins at Cape Cod continues, it is perhaps pertinent to revisit another, quite similar mass stranding of common dolphins in Cornwall, UK in 2008.
The UK event was as unusual as the Cape Cod one because it involved scores of dolphins stranded in a short period of time compared to average stranding numbers during other months of the same year. 26 dolphins died in that event, while during other months the numbers of stranded dolphins ranged from 1 to 4. Luckily the Cornwall event was very thoroughly investigated.
As far as numbers go, here is a part of report `In total, approximately 40 common dolphins stranded or attempted to strand alive at various locations: Porth Creek (24 dead, one stranded/euthanized, approximately seven refloated), Gillan Creek (five to seven refloated), Place (one refloated) and Trelissick (one stranded/euthanized). Over the course of the day, over 70 animals are believed to have been guided out to sea by rescuers. One additional dead dolphin was reported on 11th June, although the species was unconfirmed and the body was not recovered.`
Dolphins were also seen milling close to shore prior to the onset of the mass stranding event.
In Cornwall event it was very quickly established that the Royal Navy was doing a whole bunch of activities in the area, including Medium Range sonar, submarine activities, aircraft activities, explosions, etc. The report on Cornwall event concluded that “The link to the naval exercise, while not proven, seemed the most plausible explanation for the adverse behaviour of the dolphins and is the most likely trigger for the mass stranding event.”
So what are the similarities (and differences) between the Cape Cod event and Cornwall event?
1. Both events involved common dolphins.
2. Both events were highly unusual in regard to overall stranding numbers in the area over the year.
3. Dolphins did not strand at once altogether in the same area, but were found in various areas.
4. Dolphins were seemingly in good shape, although detailed necropsy data is pending to compare both events in detail.
5. Some animals were found alive, while other were found dead.
6. Some animals were successfully rescued, refloated and released.
7. Some animals refused to leave and restranded.
1. Number of dolphins, bigger mass stranding in Cape Cod.
2. Duration of the event, Cape Cod event has been ongoing over 28 days
3. Dolphins in Cornwell stranded in river and a creek.
The Navy Connection
1. In Cornwall event the Navy connection was well established, but not proven 100 %
2. In Cape Cod event nobody connects the Navy to the event even though it is known that Naval exercises COMPTUEX have been and possibly still ongoing somewhere in Atlantic Ocean.
What needs to happen:
1. Just like in case of Cornwall event, rescues, animal activism groups, NOAA, NMFS should request the information from the Navy in regard to their activities in immediate and surrounding areas prior, during and after Jan. 12, 2012. We cannot ignore similarities between Cornwall event and Cape Cod event. The Navy should be required to disclose all exercises types including sonar, submarines, explosives, aircraft, etc.
2. NOAA/ NMFS needs to put temporarily hold on giving the Navy new authorization to test sonar all over the world that is currently pending, until Cape Cod event is thoroughly investigated.
EDIT (02/10): Just got new information that in addition to Comptuex, there is also the “biggest in 10 years” exercise is ongoing called “Bold Alligator”. Maps show Navy’s vessels in the area. The older map is here, vessels were actually even closer to the Cape Cod. Info about the Bold Alligator is here and the recent article about 11 more common dolphins stranded yesterday (02/09) is here.