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Researchers Explain Why Dolphins Are Washing on Shore

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Multiple sightings of dolphins washed up on shore have beach goers concerned, but those who have been studying the beloved marine animals for decades reassure residents that there is no need to worry.

“We’ve been collecting this data for 40 years, so this is expected every year,” said Shelby Bessette, Program Manager for the UTRGV Coastal Studies Laboratory. 

Stranding season is typically from January through March.

“And for whatever reason, the animals that pass away offshore whether it’s neonates that didn’t make it through the birthing season or older individuals that maybe didn’t make it through the cold waters of the winter,” Bessette said. 

Depending on currents and winds they wash on shore.

“The reason they’re showing up on Boca Chica Beach is because the longshore current pushes to the North and so the jetties here actually stop that current and so they’re almost getting trapped on that side of the jetties,” she explained. 

Compared to the rest of the coast, South Padre Island/ Boca Chica Beach have a small amount of stranded dolphins, with six reported this year, she said. 

“It may seem like a mass stranding event but it’s really not, they’ve just been out in the water and have washed ashore by chance at this time,” Bessette said. 

And that certain protocol must be followed when a stranding happens.

“We’ve got to respond and make a report, especially if it’s alive that’s an emergency,” she said. 

Professionals remind residents that if a dolphin is washed up on shore whether it’s dead or alive,  don’t touch it but call for help.

You can call the UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab at 956-761-2644. 


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