There has been quite a bit of media attention around the high number of dead harbor porpoises The Marine Mammal Center has picked up off of beaches in the past few months. Each year, there are a number of harbor porpoises found dead on beaches during this period. Researchers aren't exactly sure why this might be, but there are different hypotheses, such as the possibility of domoic acid poisoning which is caused by a toxic algae that is consumed by fish, and then passed on to marine mammals through that fish. It is known that California sea lions that are rescued by the Center can have permanent brain damage and seizures as a result of the toxin. Whether or not some of the harbor porpoises picked up recently were afflicted by the same thing is unknown. Other conditions that are being looked at include unidentified lesions and infections. The Center has sent out samples from necropsies to the lab, and preliminary pathology reports may take several months to be sent back. Until then, the Center will continue to investigate whether or not there are any common links between the deaths.
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The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary hospital, research, and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals and the study of their health. Since 1975, the Center has rescued and treated more than 16,500 marine mammals and has accumulated a body of knowledge about marine mammal and ocean health. Through public education about marine mammals, the Center hopes to foster ocean stewardship and conservation. For more information, visit http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/