No evidence of dolphins starving - marine ecologist


Dr Karen Stockin carrying out
a post-mortem on a New
Zealand common dolphin.

Institute of Natural Sciences marine ecology lecturer Dr Karen Stockin says she found no evidence of starvation being the cause of death in eight recent postmortem examinations of dolphins.

Dr Stockin, a specialist in Hauraki Gulf dolphins, conducted the examinations and says the cause of death remains a mystery and the number of recent deaths is unusually high.

A newspaper report at the weekend said scientists attributed the deaths to starvation. Dr Stockin says she does not support that view.

“All carcasses we examined appeared to be in good body condition,” she says. Healthy body weights and blubber depths were recorded in each case.

She says none of the dolphins referred to Massey were classified as emaciated or malnourished. “Part of our frustration has been that most appeared seemingly healthy prior to death, exhibiting good nutritive condition and a healthy body weight. The presence of prey remains within the oesophagus and stomachs of several examined carcasses should dispel any notion of starvation.”

“Commentary which is not supported by facts can fuel misconceptions about dolphins and the fish stocks upon which they feed,” says Dr Stockin. She also disagrees with a suggestion attributed to the Auckland Regional Council's monitoring and research manager that the dolphin deaths were “part of the natural cycle of life" and not unusual.

"Eight dolphin deaths in one region over a three-week period is unusual, considering we might only get one or two animals stranded per month for the whole of New Zealand," she says.

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