Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: 2011 Bottlenose dolphin tracking in Barataria Bay, Louisiana

Jan 17, 2012 4 comments By

 

Dolphin Y00 with transmitters in Barataria Bay, Louisiana.

Dolphin Y00 with satellite-linked (lower) and VHF radio (upper) transmitters in Barataria Bay, Louisiana.

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.

 

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About the author

In 2013, Brian Balmer, PhD, shifted to a position as a Scientist with the Oceans and Human Health Branch of NOAA/NCCOS Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, SC. Prior to this move, Brian spent 12 years with the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, moving up from Intern to Staff Scientist. He graduated from Virginia Tech with double Bachelors of Science (B.Sc.) majors in wildlife science and biology. While at Virginia Tech, Brian worked for 5 years with the Cooperative Alleghany Black Bear Study radio tracking black bears to assess home range patterns and completed his undergraduate thesis on black bear den reuse in southwestern Virginia. Brian’s M.Sc. and Ph.D. research at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, supported by the Chicago Zoological Society, focused on identifying the population structure of bottlenose dolphins in two regions that have been impacted by different types of stressors; St. Joseph Bay, FL (biotoxins), and the southern coast of Georgia (anthropogenic contaminants).

4 Responses to “Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: 2011 Bottlenose dolphin tracking in Barataria Bay, Louisiana”

  1. Blair Irvine says:

    Please see my reply to a comment about another dolphin on August 4th. The dolphin you sighted was marked during a health assessment project that was conducted by NOAA during June 2013, as part of a follow-up investigation of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Thanks for your report.

  2. Blair Irvine says:

    This dolphin was marked during a health assessment project that was conducted by NOAA during June 2013, as part of a follow-up investigation of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The marking you report is a “freeze-brand” – a harmless marking use for more than 40 years with dolphins. It serves as a type of “medical ID bracelet” for the dolphins that have been examined by veterinarians. Sightings like yours help us assess the home range of this dolphin.

  3. Consuelo says:

    We saw Y24 on 8-4-2013 about 100 yards from shore on Grand Isle beach. My children were excited about this, and we have been looking for information about it since yesterday. Please give us some information!

  4. Anna says:

    We were boating in the gulf at Grand Isle on 7/29/13 and spotted Y48. He was with a group of at least 10 other dolphins. Put on a great show for our kids.

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