marine mammals rev

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Written by: Jaclyn Daly, Marine Science Consultant Designed by: Elizabeth Rogers This is a pilot resource. Your feedback is welcome. Please send an email to Elizabeth Rogers.


Who’s swimming around out there? What do we know? Underwater Investigations Keeping them around Conservation & protection Do Something! Volunteer Education Hey! I just saw a whale of a dolphin! What to do when you’re up close & personal. Our Marine Mammal Community: Whales, Dolphins, Manatees & Seals Essential Questions Click on the buttons above to begin your exploration!!


What species of marine mammals are found in or migrating through the South Atlantic Bight (SAB)? What’s swimming around out there? The Bight is a busy place. Some of our marine mammals stick around throughout the year, while others just stop by for a visit. Year-round residents make the SAB their permanent home and usually don’t travel far. Those just passing through (or migrating) might stay for a while, using the Bight as a winter home, while others are just passing through on the way to warmer or colder waters. MENU


Nearly 20 species of marine mammals have been found in South Atlantic Bight (SAB). whales and dolphins (cetaceans), manatees (sirenians) harbor seals (pinnipeds). The most common marine mammal is the bottlenose dolphin. Some migratory offshore and coastal bottlenose dolphins travel up and down the east coast, visiting northern waters in the summer and southern waters in the winter while other coastal and estuarine dolphins will stick around the SAB year round (residents). Other small cetaceans found throughout the SAB are spotted, striped, and common dolphins. Larger cetaceans such as pilot, sperm, and fin whales are also common to offshore waters of the SAB year- round. Other whales use the southern warm waters during the winter to have babies before migrating north to feed during summer months. These include the humpback whale and the most endangered of marine mammals, the North Atlantic right whale. The right whale population is estimated at a mere 300 individuals, 1/20000th of the number there were in 1708! Visit the following links to learn more about the critically endangered right whale are: Gray’s Reef New England Aquarium Georgia DNR Characteristics of our Marine Mammals Photo courtesy of NOAA MENU


What do we know? Underwater Investigations How are whales and dolphins being researched by scientists in the SAB? Dozens of organizations and universities are studying marine life in the SAB. Research helps us learn how to protect these amazing animals by understanding how marine mammals live with each other and within their environment. Photo courtesy of USGS Continuing research on marine mammals is essential to protect and ensure the survival of cetaceans throughout the world. Understanding aspects such as species’ population biology, social structure, life history, and migration/movement patterns aid in developing successful management strategies and implementation of effective laws, regulations, and marine sanctuaries. MENU


Some top research projects involve tracking individuals and acoustic (vocalization and hearing) studies. Tracking individuals/groups using satellite/ VHF tags and photo-identification techniques. This allows for population monitoring, movement tracking, life history comprehension such as reproduction and longevity, and social structuring including whom is hanging out with whom. Some great marine mammal tracking websites include: Whalenet MENU


Acoustic studies using hydrophones and other technology are now becoming common aid conservation of marine mammals in many ways. For example, pingers (acoustic alarms) are now being looked at as deterrents from nets in order to reduce dolphins from being accidentally caught (by catch). Furthermore, the study of low frequency active (LFA) sonar and its harmful effects on marine mammals has been of particular interest to marine biologists and conservationists. Photos courtesy of URI-OMP Some top research projects involve tracking individuals and acoustic (vocalization and hearing) studies. MENU


Dr. Rob Young at Coastal Carolina University is trying to understand the ecological role that the bottlenose dolphins play with respect to prey in estuaries near Georgetown, SC. The Rising Tide Project offers activities designed for highschool students that focus on these biological and ecological interactions. Dr. Andy Read at Duke Marine lab is studying all types of aspects of dolphin life including foraging ecology, life history, and population biology. At UNCW Dr. Ann Pabst, Dr. Bill McLellan, and Dr. Laela Sayigh are working on numerous dolphin projects in North Carolina and Florida waters. Aleta Hohn and her collegues at the NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) lab in Beaufort, NC, is providing evidence that the population of bottlenose dolphins in the western Atlantic is divided into three genetically distinct stocks: estuarine, inshore, and offshore. Recognizing genetic variability between these stocks helps develop management strategies to regulate levels of by catch from the fishing industry. MENU


Keeping them around Conservation & Protection What are the major protection and conservation efforts? For hundreds of years, human have been polluting, hunting and generally wreaking havoc on marine mammals and their environment. Now that we know more about how these animals are living in their watery environment, think about how can we protect them? Photo courtesy of SCU All marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, with some listed as threatened, rare, or endangered. Research groups work with commercial fisheries, politicians, and each other to implement the most effective management strategies. Unfortunately, marine mammals difficult species to protect. This is mostly due to the fact that years of study are needed to determine how humans are effecting their population dynamics. For example, despite millions of dollars and years of study, there are now only about 300 North Atlantic Right Whales left. Hundreds of thousands of whales were hunted to near extinction in the eighteen and nineteen hundreds. Currently, by catch in commercial fishing nets, pollution, and habitat degradation are leading causes in marine mammal population decline. However, scientists are making new discoveries all the time that gives hope to the survival of many marine mammals. MENU


Keeping them around Conservation & Protection When sick, entangled, or dying marine mammals are found, only certain people are permitted to approach them. The recent entanglement of the right whale, named Kingfisher, illustrated the hazards of marine debris to marine mammals. Tagged with a satellite tracking device, trained rescuers from the Center of Coastal Studies in Massachusetts followed it by boat and tried to untangle the young male. It managed to elude their aid and its whereabouts are unknown. Photo courtesy of Fisheries and Oceans of Canada MENU


Do Something! Volunteer Education What volunteer and education programs are available for citizens and students? Photo courtesy of The Wildlife Trust Get out there and do something! Nags Head Dolphin Watch The Dolphin Project Education Planet- An Educational Web Guide There are dozens of ways to help preserve marine mammals and their environments, from sloshing through the surf to simply writing letters to local representatives. MENU


So you want to be a marine mammal scientist? Explore the resources around you! Start by visiting professional organizations of marine mammal scientist for ideas, like the Society for Marine Mammalogy. MENU


Hey! I just saw a whale of a dolphin! What to do when you’re up close & personal. What should you do if you see a dolphin or whale in the ocean? Remember, you’re not Dr. Doolittle, nor a mermaid. As cute, cuddly, and friendly as dolphins and whales might appear, they’re still wild animals, and big ones, at that. Try to give them room to be themselves. If you suspect an animal you’ve spotted is sick or injured, call professionals for help. If you are a boater you may come across some whales and dolphins while enjoying your trip on the water. To protect marine mammals there are certain guidelines you should follow if you should come across some of these amazing creatures. This information can be found by visiting NOAA’s Protected Resources Management Division MENU


To download a copy of this information, please click here. Adobe Acrobat Reader required. This is a pilot resource. Your feedback is welcome. Please send an email to Elizabeth Rogers. MENU

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