- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - A dead dolphin has washed ashore in Biloxi and one official says the death may be a casualty of the red tide algae bloom.

The Sun Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1Ocp8Q3) the young dolphin was found Thursday morning surrounded by smaller rotting dead fish.

“The dolphin was about 4 to 5 months old,” Institute for Marine Mammal Studies Executive Director Moby Solangi said. “This is highly unusual to find dead animals this time of year.”

The algae bloom has killed thousands of fish along the Coast and was responsible for the Dec. 11 closings of area beaches and oyster reefs.

The dolphin is the first sea mammal to have been found dead since the onslaught of the algae bloom, Solangi said.

“We don’t know if it is related to the algae bloom, but there are a large number of dead fish around it,” he said. “Dolphins are top predators, so eventually the fish become infected and the dolphins and turtles eat the infected fish.”

Solangi said a necropsy will be conducted on the dolphin. He said it could be a while until the results are returned.

He said the red tide is the worst he’s seen this late in the year.

“It’s uncommon for there to be a red tide in December,” he said.

The algae bloom has been destructive along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Louisiana. Solangi said the stagnant state of the Mississippi Sound is an almost perfect spot for the algae bloom to thrive.

“Algae needs two things — warm temperatures and nutrients,” he said. “This has been moving westward and I think once it moved into the Mississippi Sound, it was like moving into a cul-de-sac; there’s no movement and the tidal fluctuations are minimal.”

He said he’s optimistic the cooler weather predicted for the weekend will help slow the algae bloom.

“It will certainly be a factor in reducing its growth,” Solangi said.

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