The Inter-Agency Marine Life Deaths Working Group has released its first report on the recent spate of dolphin and fish deaths in Gulf St. Vincent in South Australia (SA) and associated waters. Of the 34 dolphins found, six had been tested for morbillivirus by the time that the report was released, and the results were positive. This is the first time that this particular virus has been found in SA waters.
Morbillivirus is thought to cause suppression of the immune system that allows other diseases, such as fungus and parasites to thrive. Younger dolphins are particularly susceptible, and comprised the vast majority of the dead dolphins found.
Issues that the report has not been able to address include how did the virus enter SA waters, or if it was already here, and what conditions caused it to suddenly impact on the local population. It is also unknown whether the local population will now acquire immunity to the virus.
Luckily, the virus has yet to impact on Adelaide’s Port River dolphin population, with the only death during the March/ April period being a young calf known as Mimo. Initial examination of Mimo indicated the death to be caused by a physical defect. Mimo has yet to be tested for morbillivirus.
The report is attached.