June 2024 Offshore Dolphin Research Update

Since 2022, we’ve been conducting health assessments of offshore dolphins to gather data needed to address critical information gaps for the little-known species that regularly inhabit west Florida’s continental shelf waters.

In May 2024, we conducted the final field session of our Florida RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence Program grant. During that trip, we were able to examine and tag two Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) over the West Florida Shelf:

  • “Nelio”: 5.6-foot-long male, estimated to be 6-7 years old based on his spot pattern, tagged on May 28, 45 nautical miles (NM) west-southwest of New Pass in waters 126 feet deep. (Tag 232508 on the map)
  • “Debbie”: 6.3-foot-long female, estimated to be 7-8 years old, tagged May 31, 33NM southwest of New Pass in waters 104 feet deep. (Tag 240134)

We are currently (as of June 2024) tracking these two dolphins, along with Atlantic spotted dolphin “Ping” (Tag 232507), who we tagged with our pole-mounted Tag Attachment Device (TADpole) on April 18, 46NM offshore of Venice in waters 130 feet deep.

Since Ping was tagged with the TADpole, we don’t have sex or age information on the dolphin. You can learn more about the TADpole in this recently published paper “Development of single-pin, un-barbed, pole-tagging of free-swimming dolphins and sharks with satellite-linked transmitters” in the journal Animal Biotelemetry here.

This June 10 tracking map shows that the waters offshore of Pine Island Sound seem to be the place to be if you are a spotted dolphin, as all three tagged dolphins have gone there. This map shows high-quality signals: Debbie, 37NM off Sanibel Island; Nelio, 38NM off Cayo Costa; Ping, 52NM off Captiva Island. The largest dot at one end of each animal’s line is its most recent location.