Officials say severely decomposed dolphins washed up Saturday in Barnegat Light and Long Beach Township, both in Ocean County, and in Upper Township in Cape May County. That came one day after dolphins washed up in Seaside Heights in Ocean County, Longport in Atlantic County and Stone Harbor in Cape May County.
State officials have been working with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine to determine why so many dolphins are dying.
The federal government has also been investigating the cause of dolphin deaths up and down the Eastern Seaboard this summer, exploring many possible causes such as disease, changes in the environment and human activities.
Robert Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, told The Press of Atlantic City (http://bit.ly/15To076) that the dolphins appear to be dying from a viral pneumonia, although the precise cause is still unknown.
Schoelkopf said pathologists at the University of Pennsylvania are working to figure out the cause of the mass dolphin deaths, but their work is complicated by their state of decomposition.
"Virtually nothing is left to sample except the teeth or skin to do genetics on," he said.
The deaths have been declared an "unusual mortality event" by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since more than 125 dolphins have been found between New York and Virginia.