Keep off beaches, Peru warns after mass pelican deaths

LIMA Sat May 5, 2012 7:30pm EDT

1 of 2. Dead pelicans are displayed by conservationists at Reventazon beach, close to the Illescas peninsula in Piura April 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Heinze Plenge

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LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's government declared a health alert along its northern coastline on Saturday and urged residents and tourists alike to stay away from long stretches of beach, as it investigates the unexplained deaths of hundreds of dolphins and pelicans.

At least 1,200 birds, mostly pelicans, washed up dead along a stretch of Peru's northern Pacific coastline in recent weeks, health officials said, after an estimated 800 dolphins died in the same area in recent months.

The Health Ministry recommended staying away from beaches, though stopped short of a ban, and called on health officials to use gloves, masks and other protective gear when collecting dead birds.

The peak tourism season around Lima's beaches is over, though many surfers are still venturing into the waters near the capital.

The Agriculture Ministry said preliminary tests on some dead pelicans pointed to malnourishment. Oscar Dominguez, head of the ministry's health department, said experts had ruled out bird flu.

"The Health Ministry ... calls on the population to abstain from going to the beaches until the health alert is lifted," the ministry said in a statement posted on its website, along with a photograph of a dead pelican.

The ministry said officials had so far checked 18 beaches in and around Lima for dead birds, but gave no details on any findings.

A mass pelican death along Peru's northern coast in 1997 was blamed at the time on a shortage of feeder anchovies due to the El Nino phenomenon.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Caroline Stauffer; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Comments (3)
AlisonR1 wrote:
That’s a huge amount of dead animals! Any ideas what happened with the dolphins?

May 05, 2012 7:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
cottenflower wrote:
Radiation sickness from Japan?

May 05, 2012 8:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse wrote:
Industrial Chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, industrial compounds (including PCBs) and other toxins pollute the oceans via a direct result of a range of human activities. Once released, pollutants accumulate in the marine food chain.

Marine mammals – whales, dolphins and porpoises – are most at risk from pollution, because they are at the top of the food chain. Worse, many chemical compounds concentrate in fatty tissue like whale blubber.

Most pollutants will suppress an animal’s immune system, rendering it more susceptible to infection. The most dangerous pollutants are chemicals that can disrupt hormones (known as endocrine disrupters), which have immense potential for harm and can interfere with reproduction, even at very low concentrations.

Unprecedented PCB Levels Tested in Dolphins
and the Health Risks

Researchers from NOAA and its partner institutions tested the dolphins inhabiting estuaries along the Georgia coast that have the HIGHEST LEVELS OF POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENYLS (PCBs) EVER REPORTED in marine wildlife. The term PCB encompasses a slew of non-bio-degradable OIL contaminants made in the USA since the beginning of the lucrative OIL processing industrial boom…. and finally banned in the late 1970s due to the already widespread cancer. The extremely high levels of PCBs measured in dolphins, (maximum concentration of 2900 parts per million), suppressing their IMMUNE SYSTEM function.

The unique signature of the PCB OIL compounds found in these dolphins is consistent with toxic industrial contaminants dumped for decades into the sea. Scientists are equally concerned about the high PCB levels in dolphins and whales. Those contaminants are moving along the coast through the marine food web.

“When we received the lab results for the tested dolphins, we were alarmed by the contaminant levels and set out to investigate how these heavy chemical burdens were affecting their health,” states Lori Schwacke, Ph.D., with NOAA’s Center for Oceans and Human Health at the Hollings Marine Lab and co-lead investigator on the team.

The team conducted a dolphin ‘capture-release medical physical’ on this population and found decreased levels of THYROID HORMONES, elevated LIVER enzymes and indications of SUPPRESSED IMMUNE FUNCTION…

May 06, 2012 3:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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