Bad weather caused postponement of an innovative study of offshore bottlenose dolphins.
Sponsored by the Georgia Aquarium and Dolphin Quest, 6 dolphins were to be captured, tagged, and released 10-30 miles off the Florida coast.
The research was designed to collect health and movement data, which would be needed to gauge the effects of future oil spills on dolphins.
Each dolphin was to be examined by a team of veterinarians and biologists, and each was to carry a satellite-linked transmitter when released.
The SDRP has a 41-year study in Sarasota Bay, but almost nothing is known about dolphins living miles off the Sarasota coast.
Do they range widely, possibly into areas impacted by oil in the northern Gulf of Mexico, or is their range smaller and more easily defined? What are their health parameters? Will they show effects if they or their prey fish are exposed to oil?
The postponed study will eventually provide important new data on the health of bottlenose dolphins offshore. All previous health assessments have all been conducted in estuarine environments.
Health and movement data will be compared with information collected by a NOAA sponsored health assessment and tracking effort in Louisiana conducted in August 2011, and in Sarasota Bay in May 2011.
Led by SDRP Director Dr. Randy Wells, the 15-person health assessment team included marine mammal veterinarians to collect blood and tissue samples, and researchers.
The team was thwarted by bad weather for 5 consecutive days. With at least another week of bad weather in the forecast, including Hurricane Rina brewing in the northern Caribbean, the team decided that re-scheduling the research for 2012 was appropriate.
SDRP staff were back only for 5 days from a successful tri-national conservation effort to tag Franciscana dolphins in Brazil, and now they get some well deserved down time.