Bottlenose dolphins have long called the warm waters of the Indian River Lagoon in central Florida home. However in recent years this area has become a hotspot of concern for those interested in protecting the much-loved mammals.
There has been a significant increase in the amount of dolphins that have been found dead or stranded – prompting the National Marine Fisheries Service to call for continual long-term monitoring of the area. Without this data, small populations may decline to dangerously low levels before the threat is realized and management actions are taken.
While these events are still under investigation, initial studies on the dolphins have found health concerns such as high concentrations of mercury, benign tumors, and the presence of a skin disease throughout the lagoon.
Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute is helping to aid long-term monitoring of the Indian River Lagoon bottlenose dolphins by providing aerial survey. This is a critical component to creating an effective conservation plan. By gaining a more accurate understanding of the current dolphin population, patterns and habitat we can more clearly evaluate the factors that threaten them. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Fund has supported this project since 2004 and is proud to help this special species survive.