In response to the largest oil spill in the history of the U.S., as part of a Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a NOAA-sponsored health assessment of bottlenose dolphins was conducted in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, during August 3-16, 2011.
The primary goal of this health assessment was to determine the potential health impacts from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on the dolphins within the Barataria Bay estuary. In addition to receiving a physical exam, each dolphin was fitted with a satellite-linked and/or VHF radio transmitter to determine individual dolphin ranging patterns and assess dolphin habitat preferences within Barataria Bay. These data can provide insight into potential differences in oil exposure among individual dolphins as well as help to identify appropriate habitat restoration efforts for dolphins in the region.
In total, 30 dolphins were tagged during the Barataria Bay health assessment (19-♀/11-♂). Of these, 25 were tagged with a newly redesigned Wildlife Computers SPOT satellite-linked tag which resulted from the testing described elsewhere in this newsletter. Satellite-linked telemetry and direct VHF tracking over several months allowed fine-scale movement data to be obtained for individual dolphins within Barataria Bay. Continued tracking of the remaining tags, along with NOAA’s ongoing photo-identification surveys and analysis of the health assessment data, will help to determine long-term residency patterns of the dolphins within the Barataria Bay estuary as well as the effects that the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill may have had on these animals.
This material is based upon work supported by BP and NOAA. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of BP and/or state or federal natural resources trustees.