By Mary Beth Cleavelin
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an Unusual Mortality Event on Thursday in response to an increase in dolphin deaths in the Mid-Atlantic.
To recognize an event as unusual, it must meet at least one of seven criteria set by NOAA, including a marked change in morbidity or strandings compared to previous years.
Virginia has borne the brunt of the strandings, with 49 in July and more than 100 total to date this year. New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland have also seen an increase in dolphin deaths.
With the declaration of a UME, additional funding through the National Contingency Fund is now available, and an independent team of scientists will investigate and develop a response plan. This step may take months or years, according to the release.
Scientists are still searching for answers as to why the dolphins have washed up dead in the affected states. No obvious signs of entanglement or gashes have been noted. . . .
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