Tourists warned of dangerous dolphin disease
Holidaymakers in the southwest of England have been warned not to swim with dolphins because of fears they are carrying a potentially harmful bacteria.
Scientists have warned that the population of bottlenose dolphins living around the south west coastline could die out because of the spread of the bacteria, which they believe is linked to chemical pollution.
The problem has prompted Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Strandings Network (MSN), to issue a statement warning there could be a link between higher-than-usual instances of Brucella ceti found in dead animals washed ashore and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), toxic chemicals added to paints, cement and other industrial fluids until they were banned 10 years ago.
A spokeswoman for the trust said that the risk to people was "very small indeed", but added: "Nevertheless, (it is recommended) that people don't swim with dolphins or touch any bodies they find on the beach, just in case."
Scientists working with MSN analysed samples taken from dolphins found dead on beaches in Cornwall over the last six years.
They found more than half were carrying Brucella, something rarely found in bottlenose dolphins or any other species off Cornwall.
No other cases were found in 15 bottlenose dolphins found dead in the rest of England and Wales between 1989 and 2008, and only one was found out of 36 dolphins examined in Scotland in the same period.
It is carried by other water-born mammals, including whales and seals. And scientists fear that pollution is to blame.
PCBs were banned under the UN Stockholm Convention in 2001 but they can still be found in ocean waters.
They get into the fish the dolphins eat and are readily absorbed into fat, including dolphin blubber.