Almost 100 dolphins mysteriously washed up on the coast of south Florida over the weekend.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that at least 95 false killer whales were stranded against the shores of Hog Key in Everglades National Park. Among those, at least 80 died, just one was seen alive, and approximately 13 remain unaccounted for.
The species of dolphin are known as false killer whales. Despite their slightly misleading name, they are the fourth-largest member of the oceanic dolphin family, typically measuring around 4.9 meters (16 feet) long.
NOAA arrived at the scene on Monday to investigate the situation and warn locals to avoid sailing in the area. The region is a remote strip of islands curving out from the southernmost tip of Florida. NOAA said the geography made it especially tricky for them to dispatch biologists onto the scene who could assess the situation and potentially save some of the dolphins' lives.
“Once on the scene, the response team attempted to herd the whales into deeper water, however, they were ultimately unsuccessful in that effort,” Blair Mase, NOAA Fisheries Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding Network coordinator, told Palm Beach Post.
The cause of the mass stranding isn’t yet fully understood. The area has witnessed two smaller and similar events in recent decades, according to NBC Local News. One occurred in the Key West in 1986 and the other near Tampa in 1989, which involved 40 dolphins.
Conservation groups on Twitter heckled NOAA, asking them to investigate whether the dolphins were disrupted by seismic survey work recently carried out by oil companies along the coast of Florida. This, however, remains entirely unconfirmed.
False killer whale and bottlenose dolphin performing at Enoshima Aquarium in Japan. Daiju Azuma/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.5