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Dolphin causes a stir at Somerset Long Bay

Royal Gazette

By Mark Prior
Published Aug. 13, at 8:00 am

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Authorities are warning people not to get too close to a dophin
spotted today at Somerset Long Bay

A dolphin that was spotted yesterday at Somerset Long Bay may have been stranded. US marine mammal biologist Trevor Spradlin said the situation was similar to what he’s seen in the US, where dolphins have recently been found along the coast of Virginia up to New York.

“We’ve had a serious increase in standings — of animals washed up dead or washed up alive and died shortly after,” he said. “I’d have to see this dolphin before I give my opinion, but from what I’ve seen with the morbillivirus mortality on our coast, I’d say it’s possible this could be a case of that too.”

The morbillivirus killed more than 740 animals along the Mid-Atlantic coast 25 years ago, said Mr Spradlin, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service.

Bermuda authorities yesterday warned people to stay away from the dolphin if they saw it.

Representatives from the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo (BAMZ), the Bermuda Police Service and Dolphin Quest were called to Somerset Long Bay along with fisheries officials after members of the public reported the animal’s presence.

BAMZ principal curator Ian Walker said the dolphin was swimming back and forth and often came within three feet of the shore.

Members of the public were instructed not to crowd the mammal so it could leave the bay if it wanted, he added.

“We are currently monitoring the situation,” he said. “Dolphins aren’t usually this close to the shore. Its respiration rate is higher than normal.”

BAMZ was prepared to take the dolphin out of the water to make a full assessment if needed, the curator said.

“A field care centre will be set up if we decide to take the animal into care and give a full work-up, blood test, examine the blow hole, stomach samples, and anything to give us a clear information on its health,” he added.

Laurence Fox said he was one of a crowd of about 25 people who saw the mammal.

He said he jumped on a paddle board and was able to get within arm’s reach of it.

“It just arrived here [yesterday] morning, everyone was standing off watching,” he said. “Other people were on kayaks, jet skis, boats and the children were swimming around too.”

The dolphin was between four and five feet long, he added.

“I used to work for the marine police, so I’ve seen them around Bermuda but I’ve never seen them so close [to shore] before,” Mr Fox said.

“I’m not sure if something was wrong with it.”