Despite Auckland’s beaches being re-opened after the stand down on an alert over a deadly toxin that killed a number of dogs and made scores more sick, one scientist has been brave enough to voice her concerns about the continuing deaths of dophins in the Hauraki Gulf. (The beaches were coincidentally opened a few days ago….just in time for the official end of winter)
Despite her concerns the scientist was told by the Auckland Regional Council that an investigation into the dolphins deaths was “not a line of inquiry” it wanted to pursue:
“A spike in the number of dead dolphins in the Hauraki Gulf could point to a problem other than poisonous sea slugs – if only authorities would do the necessary tests, says a researcher.
Marine biologist Karen Stockin, who is responsible for autopsies on common dolphins that wash up around Auckland, wants authorities to investigate the deaths of eight otherwise seemingly healthy dolphins in the space of three weeks.
She said the deaths were probably not linked to dog deaths that occurred at about the same time, “but that does not mean we should not be concerned”.
“The common dolphin is an important biological indicator and if something changes in their system that causes an increase in deaths, that is important.”
Ms Stockin said that on average, one or two common dolphins would wash up around the coastline of New Zealand each month.
However, “eight independent deaths from one region [were reported] in just a three-week period”, she said.
“Not a single [dolphin] was emaciated or malnourished. On the contrary, the animals examined were seemingly healthy prior to death.”
Tissues tests had failed to explain why they died. “These were all mature, robust animals.”
Ms Stockin, a Massey University scientist, is pushing for the dolphins’ stomach contents to be tested.
She has kept samples from their stomachs and contacted the Auckland Regional Council – which has been leading the investigation into deaths of dogs and other marine life – to ask about testing them.
She was told it was “not a line of inquiry” the council wanted to pursue…..The council and other agencies ruled out a link between the dog and dolphin deaths without testing the dolphins’ stomachs…..
….it was up to the Department of Conservation to decide if the dolphins warranted further testing. A spokeswoman for the department did not return messages yesterday.”
Testing should be carried out (outside of New Zealand if necessary) without any further delay for two main reasons:
- To exclude any possibility that the pesticide recently dropped on Rangitoto and Motutipu Islands may have entered the food chain
- To identify the cause as part of an assessment as to whether there is a risk to human health from swimming in or eating fish/shellfish from the region.
See also from oceanaware.info
“Update 22/9/09: Pete [name supplied] who has been fishing the Hauraki Gulf for the last 35 years, and regularly fishes off Rangitoto, had this to say about the day of the first poison drops in June. (He was fishing on the rocks. Other fisherman were removed from the area, however he refused to leave):
“there were immense amounts of it [poison] going into the water – there was more going into the sea than the land! It was absolutely horrendous to see…. I have never seen anything like this in all my 35 years of fishing… It was coming in like hail (it stung!), in immense, immense amounts, it looked like every 100 m or so, there was a sack of it going in the water… my dear, what I saw you would not believe” He also expressed feelings that are best not printed here! however he did say, ” they need their backsides kicked good and proper!!”
Pete and Paul, another fisherman I have spoken to expressed grave concerns about poison accumulating in the food chain. The fish caught in these areas are being sold at the market – even if people do not become ill from this, they will likely be accumulating poison in their liver.
It does make us wonder if anyone is analysing fish and marine mammals for pesticide residues and why independent environment organisations aren’t arranging for their own testing.
For more on the background to this story see: Auckland beaches’ poison