MEXICO CITY – The leading cause of death for marine mammals that beach themselves in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is contact with humans, National Science and Technology Council (CONACYT) officials said Tuesday.
“The majority die because they get caught in fishing nets and, as mammals, they cannot surface to breathe, eventually drowning,” CONACYT Yucatan Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program director Raul Diaz said.
Fishermen leave nets and other traps in areas that are home to dolphins, which can be attracted by bait.
“If there are fish there, the dolphins may eat them, not knowing that there is a net and getting trapped, becoming more entangled as they try to get out and drowning,” Diaz said.
Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), the most common porpoise in the waters around the Yucatan Peninsula, is the species found beached most often.
Among the other marine mammals found beached on the Yucatan’s beaches were pygmy sperm whales (Kogia breviceps), rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) and bridled dolphins (Stenella attenuata).
In 2016, marking a first, a finback whale (Balaenoptera physalus) beached itself in the Yucatan.
The number of beached marine mammals in the Yucatan has ranged from 10 in 2013 to one in 2015.
More than 20 marine mammals beached themselves in 2016, while around 15 did so in 2017.