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Mysterious beaching of marine animals raises questions

by Brianna Bush Executive Editor
Tue, Nov 5th 2019 09:00 pm
Pods of whales and dolphins are
washing up on beaches across the world. With various things
affecting the marine life it is hard to pinpoint one specific
cause of these mysterious beachings of the mammals.
Pods of whales and dolphins are washing up on beaches across the world. With various things affecting the marine life it is hard to pinpoint one specific cause of these mysterious beachings of the mammals.

Imagine this — you are walking on the sand after a long car ride and the first thing you see are groups of whales and/or dolphins marooned on the beach crying out for help. People are running around trying to get the gentle creatures back to the water only to have them swim for the shore again. A question to ask now — why is this happening? 

There are many reasons as to why pods of whales and dolphins beach themselves — environmental, man-made or a combination of both. The animal instinct in their bodies is telling them to get away from what is harming them. 

Scientists are in the process of determining the main cause of the group beachings, but there seems to be multiple reasons behind why whales and dolphins have become set on the shore. 

According to Scientific American, dolphins and whales have been beaching themselves in large groups since the age of Aristotle, but environmentalists have reason to believe human impact is one of the main causes for the strandings. Things like pollution, shipping noises and military sonar technology have aided in the severity of events like mass beachings. 

Scientists have been attempting to figure out why animals of their intelligence levels and maritime navigational skills are ending up in water that is too shallow for them. In June, carcasses of dolphins found their way to the shore. What stood out about this was the fact that the bodies were covered in discolored lesions. 

According to ABC News, the researchers who were brought on, were unable to identify the cause of death because of the level of decomposition the bodies were found in. In the cases of bodies of dolphins washing up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the deaths “an unusual mortality event.” 

For the dolphins and whales that are still alive when they reach the shore, the NOAA advises people not to attempt to push the animals back to the water and instead call a professional for help. Something a bystander can do is keep the marine mammals’ skin wet. 

That being said it is very important to get the heavier animals back to the water as quickly as possible because the weight of their bodies can potentially crush their organs. The difference between being on land and in the water can drastically affect their bodies in many different ways. 

According to National Geographic, one of the reasons whales and dolphins are swimming so close to shore — to the point of beaching themselves — is because of sonic or acoustic interference. Because whales and dolphins use echolocation and other forms of sonar calls, any form of sonic interference can be catastrophic for them. 

In the case of large vessels or other underwater disturbances, dolphins and whales can lose the ability to navigate the waters which leads to them ending up on the shorelines. 

Many people want to blame the military for the water mammals washing up on the shores or writhing in shallow waters. In the past, the military and other organizations which utilize technologies that create sound underwater would test the devices in the ocean. The tests created an unsafe environment for sonar/echolocation enabled aquatic mammals. 

According to Independent Co., the whales and dolphins would often attempt to swim from the sounds, the speed at which they breach the surface is due to the disorientation. The rapid rate they swim at to escape the sound causes decompression sickness. 

This type of sickness works the same way on whales and dolphins as it does on humans, in some cases it is worse because of their size and weight. 

In 2004 a sonar ban was placed and immediately there was a decrease in the number of beached water mammals. So a question posed now is: why do we keep seeing pods of beached whales and dolphins? 

An easy answer to that is because there are still many other factors that go into something this large. One must remember our own involvement. 

Previously mentioned in “Sustain to Remain,” pollution has been, and continues to be, a factor in the deaths of marine animals. Some of the whales and dolphins that have washed up have been found with plastic and other pieces of trash within their stomachs and intestines — in layman’s terms, they choked to death or had gastric blockage due to the waste. 

There are many things that we can do to prevent pollution, but other factors are still unknown as to why these animals are washing up like they do. If we want these animals to remain in their natural habitats, we need to figure out how to sustain it to begin with. 

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Taken by Marios Argitis,
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