Pesticide run-off leads to death of dolphins on beaches in Tuscany

It is said that pesticide pollution, and varnish put on boat hulls to stop algae growth, weakens the immune system of dolphins which then leads to their death, in this instance, from a marine version of measles caused by the virus cetacean morbillivirus.

Tuscany's dolphins
The Tyrrhenian Sea, off the Tuscan coast, is home to several species of dolphin. Photo: CARLO BORLENGHI/GETTY IMAGES

About 40 dolphin corpses have washed up on beaches in Tuscany this year. This is more than double the number usually found in the entire year on Tuscan beaches.

10 of the dolphins were tested and the deaths found to be caused by a marine version of measles.

“Apart from having empty stomachs and traces of the virus, they were also highly contaminated by pesticides-the highest level we have ever seen in the mediterranean.”-Cecilia Mancusi, a biologist from Tuscany’s environmental protection agency.

Tuscany’s environmental assessor has made an appeal to the Italian government to sign the 2001 Stockholm treaty limiting the use of pesticides which do not break down naturally.

The Times newspaper tells us that Italy is the only European country which is not signed this agreement.

This virus has been linked to the mass death of seals and whales and killed 1000 striped dolphins in the Mediterranean in 1990.

Dolphins are particularly vulnerable.

“From plankton to crustaceans to fish, pesticides work their way up through the food chain and end up in the dolphins. And to that the fact dolphins live up to 40 years and have large fat deposits were pesticides buildup. The females also produce a very fatty milk, so [the chemicals] are all transmitted to their young.”-Cecilia Mancusi

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