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Scientists Examining Spike In Marine Life Deaths On L.I.

HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Sea animals are being rescued, rehabilitated and returned to the wild.

But since January, many of the marine strandings resulted in death. Now there's a push to solve the disturbing puzzle.

It's an unusual spike in marine life deaths. One day alone this week, eight beached animals washed up on Long Island's north and south forks.

"The data's important. Already, these numbers have almost tripled?" CBS2's Jennifer McLogan asked marine scientist Robert DiGiovanni of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society.

"It looks like three times what it was this time last year. So we are at 63 animals that we have responded to, that have washed up dead on our beaches," DiGiovanni said.

DiGiovanni says there are fluctuations through the decades, and his group is in search of answers.

"Understanding why these animals strand. Is it a variety of reasons or just one cause?" he said.

As necropsies are being performed, pathologists are discovering some animals died of natural causes. Others were struck by power motors, became entangled in fishing gear, ingested plastics, rocks and stones.

"We get these animals that come in decrepit, unresponsive, dehydrated, have very large cuts and injuries," said Maxine Montello of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Prevention.

Once healed, they will be released back into the wild.

Animals that can't survive on their own are being nurtured and appreciated by visitors at the Long Island Aquarium.

"Make them aware that these animals are in our back yard," said Candyce Paparo of the Long Island Aquarium. "And to inspire them to care about the animals, and the environment that we live in."

"We don't use any plastics in our house and we try to share that message as well," one visitor to the aquarium told McLogan.

"It's good for special needs kids, especially the rescues that are brought here," said another.

"It's us that's polluting the water," another said.

MORELocal Researchers On A Mission To Document All The Seals Living In The Waters Off New York City

Nonprofits involved in conservation and rescue say they are in great need of additional volunteers to walk and monitor the beaches and shorelines.

Since January, three varieties of seal - harp, grey and harbor - appeared most vulnerable in New York City and Long Island waters.

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