The deaths of thousands of dolphins washed up on beaches in Peru may have been caused by acoustic testing offshore by oil companies, conservationists have warned.
Nearly 3,000 of the mammals are thought to have died this year so far, with 615 counted by conservationists along a 90-mile stretch of beaches near the city of Lambayeque on Wednesday.
Scientists in Peru are exploring the possibility the deaths were caused by sonar blasts used by firms to find oil under the sea. The method can damage dolphins’ ears and cause disorientation and internal bleeding, experts warn.
ORCA Peru expert, veterinarian Carlos Yaipen Llanos said that while ‘we have no definitive evidence’, he suspects the cause of death is a ‘marine bubble’, which occurs during mining exploration.
The bubbles are not visible to the naked eye but they can have an effect on dolphins, sea lions, and whales.
Earlier this year federal regulators in the U.S. suspended similar testing in the Gulf of Mexico following sightings of dead and sick dolphins.
The ban is set to last until May, when the bottlenose dolphin calving season ends.
However Mr Llanos added that it is also possible the dolphins in Peru suffered from a disease outbreak.
The dead dolphins include babies and mothers who until recently were happily suckling, suggesting that healthy creatures were also affected.
Thousands of dead anchovies have also been washed up on the shoreline.