GULFPORT, Miss. (WKRG) – If you take a trip to Gulfport you can meet three fish loving residents. They are rescued dolphins at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS). They play, eat, and laugh, but they all have a reason they’re there.
“Some of these animals in our facility cannot be released because of certain disabilities, but they provide a very good educational tool,” said Dr. Moby Solangi, IMMS Director.
I spent some time with Apollo. He was stranded a few years ago on a Louisiana mud flat and ended up developing a sunburn along him which is why he needed to be rescued.
While Apollo may have gotten a happy ending, many dolphins along this Mississippi coast are not. So far, the number of dead dolphins found along the Mississippi coast is almost double the number of last year’s total.
“These numbers are approaching what we had in 2010 after the oil spill, so it is alarming,” said Solangi. “The most concerning is that, quite a large number of them are baby dolphins. Nine of the fifty-two are babies.”
The most likely cause is the late and persistent red tide of last fall. Toxins are likely being transferred through the fish they eat. However on Alabama beaches, just a few miles to the east, the story is a little different.
“Our numbers have actually been pretty typical for this time of year,” said Noel Wingers, a member of the Alabama Marine Mammals Stranding Network. “Spring is usually our busy season in Alabama for strandings.”