DEP Focus on “Natural Causes” In Dolphin Deaths Ignores Role of Pollution
Pollution Suppresses Immune Function, Creates Conditions That “Facilitate the Emergence of Morbillivirus”
On August 1, as reports of dolphin deaths proliferated, with absolutely no evidence to support their claims, DEP issued a misleading press release, strongly implying that the cause was natural and not linked to pollution:
While the underlying cause of the deaths has not been confirmed, they appear to be part of a natural disease cycle and not related to water quality, which has been excellent this summer.
I suspect that this was part of the typical DEP pattern of attributing various environmental harms to “natural causes”, as a means of dodging any responsibility.
That historical problem has been magnified by the Christie Press Office, who now must deny science, mask bad news and put out “good news” to “restore the shore” and not scare away any more tourists.
Since then, DEP has not walked that claim back, despite numerous statements by scientists and federal officials that the cause was unknown and research that indicates that pollution plays a role.
Just 2 days ago, NOAA scientists said other man made and pollution factors could be involved:
Other factors may have weakened the dolphins’ immune systems, making them more vulnerable to sickness. They include chemicals, other disease-causing microbes, biotoxins and expansion of the dolphins’ range, according to officials and experts. The investigation is ongoing.
In another press release today, the DEP doubles down on this “natural cause” deception:
Morbilliviruses are naturally occurring pathogens in marine mammal populations, and because these viruses suppress the immune system, many animals ultimately die from secondary infections, according to NOAA Fisheries. Not all dolphins exposed to morbillivirus will die from these infections, but a large proportion may not survive.
DEP not only stresses natural causes, but claims that the virus “suppress the immune system”.
All while ignoring the fact the man made conditions – from ocean acidification; to temperature; to navigation & ships; to fishing and food chain impacts; to sound, bacterial and chemical pollution – all are known to be stressors that “suppress the immune system”.
Clearly, man made conditions and pollution are factors in declining ocean ecosystem health, and dolphin deaths are impacted by man made conditions and stressors – just like diet, stress, smoking, drinking, lifestyle and pollution effects human mortality and morbidity.
I certainly am not expert on these issues, but just in case DEP is unaware of the literature, here is some research that discusses the role of pollution in morbillivirus and immune suppression – I’m sure there’s a lot more research out there since this paper was published:
[End note: and of course, today’s DEP press release is designed to create an appearance of aggressive management and a high level of ecological concern at DEP and the Christie administration, which is truly Orwellian.]