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CIYC draws crowd for educational dolphin lecture

March 10, 2010
By JANE BRICKLEY, jbrickley@breezenewspapers.com

The Captiva Island Yacht Club's Environmental Awareness Committee hosted an open house on Wednesday that featured Kim Bassos-Hull presenting an educational talk entitled "Dolphin Research Along the West Coast of Florida: 40 Years of Study."

Bassos-Hull is a senior biologist and research associate for the marine mammal program at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., and has been studying dolphin populations along the west coast of Florida since 1990.

Mote's Dr. Randall Wells began the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program 40 years ago and - according to Bassos-Hull - it's the longest running dolphin study in the world.

Article Photos

Kim Bassos-Hull, senior biologist and research associate for the marine mammal program at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, gave a presentation about dolphins at the Captiva Island Yacht Club on Wednesday.

Bassos-Hull began her presentation with some basics about dolphins, including a little known fact: dolphins are born with hair on their nose, which they lose as they mature.

She also talked about the diet and various behaviors of dolphins, explaining some of the fascinating ways they hunt for food.

"How many of you guys have seen a big swirl of water and a fish flying into the air from next to a dolphin?" Bassos-Hull asked the crowd. A few hands rose into the air, and Bassos-Hull explained that this practice is called "fishwhacking," a method by which dolphins use their flukes - or tail fins - to kick the fish up into the air to stun it so that they can catch and eat it easily.

Fact Box

Dolphin-friendly Fishing & Viewing Tips

Dolphins need your help. Serious and even fatal dolphin injuries from interactions with recreational fishing gear and boats are on the rise. You can prevent injuries to dolphins and other sea life - and have a better day on the water - by following a few tips designed to protect marine animals.

These "best practices" were developed by marine scientists and wildlife managers working with boaters, anglers and fishing guides:

Never feed wild dolphins - it's harmful and illegal

Feeding teaches dolphins to beg for food and draws them dangerously close to fishing gear and boat propellers. Feeding is illegal under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Reuse or share leftover bait

Freeze leftover bait for later or give it to your fishing neighbor. Dumping leftover bait may attract dolphins to fishing areas to beg or steal bait and catch.

Reel in your line if dolphins appear

Reel in and wait for dolphins to pass to avoid losing your bait or catch and to prevent potential harm to dolphins. Never cast towards dolphins.

Change locations if dolphins show interest in bait or catch

Move away from dolphins to avoid unintentionally hooking one and prevent damage to gear or catch.

Check gear and terminal tackle

Inspect your gear often to avoid unwanted line breaks - even small amounts of gear in the water can be harmful to wildlife if entangled or ingested.

Use circle and corrodible hooks

Circle hooks may reduce injuries to fish, dolphins and sea turtles. Corrodible hooks (any hook other than stainless steel) will eventually dissolve.

Stay at least 50 yards away

Stay a safe distance from wild dolphins to avoid causing potential harm. Maintaining a safe distance helps keep dolphins wild.

Prevent wildlife entanglements - recycle fishing line

Place all broken or used fishing line in a monofilament Fishing Line Recycling Bin. If no recycling bins are available, place broken or used fishing line that has been cut into pieces in a lidded trash can.

Stash your trash

Littering is illegal and can be harmful to wildlife. Collect any trash you've left behind and place it in a lidded trash can.

For more information:

www.fishinglinerecycling.org

www.mote.org

www.sarasotadolphin.org

And if you've ever been out on the water and noticed dolphins splashing in the wake of your boat, Bassos-Hull said that this is typical dolphin play behavior and, the bigger the wake, the more likely it becomes that dolphins will be attracted to the waves.

After four decades of studying dolphins, the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program has cataloged close to 4,000 dolphins and traced as many five generations of dolphins - from a dolphin born in the early 1960s, all the way down to her great-great-granddaughter born in 2007. The oldest dolphin in the Sarasota bay population, named Nicklo, is 60-years-old and has been sighted 658 times.

Bassos-Hull also discussed the method of photo identification for tracking dolphins, a process that involves identifying distinct markings, scars and injuries on the dorsal fin of the dolphin.

The primary goals of the research program, which spans from Tampa Bay all the way down into Pine Island Sound, include:

Collecting biological, behavioral, ecological, and health data of importance to the conservation of dolphins

Disseminating information generated by the program to scientific and general audiences for the purpose of enhancing dolphin conservation efforts

Testing new research tools and methodologies of potential benefit to conservation efforts

Training conservation workers and students

Dolphin rescue operations and post-release follow-up monitoring (Many dolphins require medical attention because of improperly disposed-of fishing line.)

During the meeting, Bassos-Hull distributed "personal-sized recycle bins" for boaters, fishermen and kayakers to take with them should they need to store broken or used monofilament line until they can recycle it. The bins are stocked with educational materials and information about tips for recycling fishing line and interacting with dolphins.

"This is a project that has been taken over by high school kids, 4-H kids, Boy Scouts. It makes them feel really good to help get the information out there. We go to racquet clubs and get the tennis ball containers that they're usually throwing into the trash, and put some stickers on them and stuff them with informational pamphlets," Bassos-Hull said.

One of the informational pamphlets contains a list of tips for boaters and fishermen, including recycling your fishing line, never feeding dolphins and maintaining a distance of at least 50 yards from wild dolphins.

"When you see wild dolphins, it's good to stay back about 50 yards. You'll see a lot more cool things if you back off a little bit," Bassos-Hull said.

At the end of the presentation, Bassos-Hull encouraged members of the audience to visit Mote and mentioned various ways for people to support the organization, including volunteering, membership, the "Protect Our Reefs" license plate and making donations.

For more information about the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, visit www.SarasotaDolphin.org.

 
 

 

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