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October 25, 2001

Diseased Dolphin

Is it safe to eat a Dolphin that shows signs of hemorrhaging?

Q: I caught this 25-pound cow dolphin off Islamorada, Florida. While cleaning the fish, we found evidence of hemorrhaging in numerous areas of the body, so we did not eat it. Do you have any information about a possible cause or whether the fish is edible? - Justin Brown, Miami, Florida

A: According to fish health specialist Ronald Thune of Louisiana State University's Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Parasitology, it's difficult to tell exactly what caused the dolphin's disease without testing a sample. It may be a bacterial infection, although some parasites and viruses also can cause internal bleeding.
"It's relatively uncommon to catch an offshore fish that's sick," says Thune. The environment is usually very clean and a sick fish is likely to die or be eaten by other predators before it can be caught.
Whatever caused the hemorrhage, says Thune, it's probably OK to eat the flesh as long as it's thoroughly cooked.