When 152 dolphins were washed up on Iran's southern coast mass suicide was blamed. Then suspicion was shifted to fishermen, who were said to have beaten the dolphins with grappling irons after they became entangled in fishing nets.
But now a more familiar target has been accused: the US military and its hi-tech hardware and spying equipment. Rejecting suggestions that his employees may have committed a mass cull, the head of Iran's state-run fisheries organization, Sha'aban-Ali Nezami, has alleged that the dolphins were victims of experimental US surveillance techniques. He has also said they could have been killed by electro-magnetic waves from military vessels in the Gulf and Oman Sea, where the US and British navies conduct regular patrols.
Some 73 dolphins were found washed up on the beach near the southern port of Jask last week. A month earlier 79 striped dolphins were discovered in the same area, which is rich in tuna and a site of industrial-scale fishing.
Distressing pictures of rows of dead dolphins have appeared in the Iranian media, alongside reports that they had "committed suicide".
However, Mr Nezami blamed more sinister factors, telling Iranian journalists: "As these dolphins are not among the species normally found in the surrounding Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, probably the Americans - for tracking purposes - have brought them to carry out laboratory works in the Gulf region. This group of dolphins have not been able to tolerate the tests. The likely reason for these deaths is water pollution, the spreading of electro-magnetic waves by military ships or a kind of virus disease."
The explanation was dismissed by environmental experts after tissue examinations showed no sign of poisoning or pollution. The environmental protection agency found bruising on some corpses, arousing suspicion that the dolphins had suffered violent blows. It has formed an inquiry committee consisting of officials from the oil ministry, the state-run shipping organization and Tehran University's veterinary medicine faculty.
"We are basing our hypothesis on fishing - either nets left at the bottom of the Persian Gulf or the big fishing nets that ships spread to catch different kinds of fish," said Mohammad Baqer Nabavi, the agency's deputy head responsible for marine biology. "We are determined to establish the precise cause, not to apportion blame or find the guilty but to prevent such incidents from recurring." ( Buzzle )