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News and Resources

Annual Dolphin Count Scheduled for Friday, July 16 - July 11, 2010

Dolphins are no rare sight for locals and people visiting Ocean City and Assateague.  Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are the most common species found in our local waters.  This particular species has a long body that can grow up to 12 feet long.  They have a pointed, beak-like nose and mouth as well as pointed flippers and a dorsal fin.  Their diet includes fish, squid, octopus, and shrimp. Unlike some other species of dolphin, the Atlantic bottlenose has teeth.  Dolphins are adept swimmers. They usually cruise around the waters at speeds of 3 to 7 miles per hour but if they need to be faster they can reach speeds of 22 miles per hour for short periods of time.  Because they are mammals they breathe air, which means that about every 5-8 minutes they need to rise to the surface to inhale. 

Bottlenose dolphins care for and nurture their young and each other.  Dolphins travel in groups called pods. Typically, they travel in pods of 10 to 15 dolphins.  Dolphins in the same pod communicate with one another and take care of their young together. There also seems to be a type of hierarchy within the pod.

Dolphins use a unique form of echolocation, sending out signals and sounds that bounce off of other things. This allows them to determine how close or far away something is. It has been discovered that bottlenose dolphins use Maryland waters as a means for migration as well as for summertime breeding and feeding.

           

Annual dolphin counts are performed along twenty-six miles of our coast in Maryland. Each year, the count helps scientists gather information about dolphin populations, reproduction rates, and the overall health of the waters in which they live. These dolphin counts became an important yearly event when, in 1987 and 1988, scientists discovered that only half of the estimated 1500 dolphins that had once lived along the Atlantic seaboard were still there. Atlantic bottlenose dolphins were quickly becoming depleted, largely due to toxic algae found in the waters. Research must be done regularly to assess environmental changes which could negatively impact dolphin populations.  

Organized by the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the 2010 dolphin count is scheduled for the morning of Friday, July 16. Volunteers are welcome. The more people along the coastline to assist at counting stations, the more accurate the data will be in representing the Maryland dolphin population.

The bottlenose dolphin is protected in U.S. waters by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. While dolphins are generally plentiful in our area, population numbers do vary within their range. One of the main threats to dolphins is getting caught in various fishing equipment including nets, purse seines, and shrimp trawls.  Protecting Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and raising awareness among locals and visitors to Ocean City and Assateague is critical to preserving these wonderful animals – as part of what makes our coastal bays and beaches such a diverse and interesting place.

For more information, please contact the Maryland Coastal Bays Program at mcbp@mdcoastalbays.org or visit www.mdcoastalbays.org.



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