After breakfast on Sunday 5 May, we began class with a debate on dolphin hunts in Japan – it got pretty intense at some points! After the debate, we had the chance to simply discuss the topic and being stereotypically Canadian, we considered possible compromises. After the debate, we worked on photo-ID, looking at our photos from Friday. After lunch, we snorkeled the mangroves. Some of us saw a lionfish – an invasive species! We also saw a nurse shark. We then went out to the west side of the island in an attempt to look for dolphins and assess the sea conditions, but it was too rough. So when we arrived back at the hotel, we had a lecture on the invasive lionfish and dolphin senses. We learned invasive species are bad – but apparently tasty! Their spines are venomous, but the meat is safe to eat. In the Atlantic, their reproduction is much faster than in their native Pacific, which is making the problem much worse; plus, they have no natural predators, hunt all day long and host of other factors that are allowing them to thrive here.

Eat Lionfish!

“Aboot ‘em dolphins eh?” UNBSJ 2013

BIM13_T5_Sfs w UNBSJSaturday 4 May began with wrap-up from Friday and a break so we could go to the local straw market. Then, we had a guest lecture, via Skype, from Dr. Justin Gregg. Justin talked about intelligence and dolphins. We took away the main points that it is very hard to measure intelligence and it probably isn’t very accurate to place different species on an intelligence hierarchy.

After lunch, we prepared for our upcoming debate and then headed out on the boat. It was rough when we first headed out, but it became progressively calmer as the afternoon progressed. We did not have to wait long for dolphins at all – before we knew it, “Oh! There they are!” And, about two hours later, the dolphins were still there! At first we saw nine, but then very soon after, we confirmed ten. They were all Atlantic spotted dolphins; there was one very young calf and two older calves/young juveniles. The other members of the group were sub-adults and adults. We began the sighting in shallow water, but they were headed southwest and into deeper water. The dolphins were surfing the waves and some, including the calf, came to ride the boat’s bow. They were often in pairs, with synchronous breathing. The group was definitely on the move – we’re not sure where they were going, but they were on a mission. At one point, six of us got in the water, but the dolphins just cruised right past us. The sighting ended with one last water entry for our TA, in hopes of getting a little bit of underwater video, but the dolphins once again just swam right by. So, we decided to change directions in hopes of finding different dolphins.

But first, we stopped at Turtle Rocks to have a nice little dip. The break gave us a chance to also see some fish life – and lots of walnut jellies! We also saw a southern stingray, barracuda and jacks, but no big schools of fish. After our break we saved several future turtles, by collecting stray Mickey Mouse balloons from the sea, as we continued north in search of dolphins. Our search came up empty, but the seas had really calmed down and the water was very clear – so we would have seen them if they were around. But, it was still a nice day on the water!

We headed back, had a delicious spaghetti supper, finished our photo-ID lecture and practical and stayed up way too late working on our debate for the next day!

Until then,

“Aboot ‘em dolphins eh?” UNBSJ 2013

On 23 April 2013, a local bonefish guide stumbled upon a rare sight while on the shallow flats of Bimini: a beaked whale. Beaked whales are deep water animals and in all of DCP’s years on Bimini, a beaked whale has never been observed here. In the years since DCP’s Kel Sweeting became part of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (2008), there has not been a marine mammal stranding here either. In fact, this may have been the first marine mammal stranding on Bimini in many, many years.

The animal was first observed alive. A great group of volunteers rallied together to try to get this amazing creature into deeper water. Sadly, during these attempts, the whale died. It was not the outcome any of us had hoped for, but we gathered our thoughts, got some great advice and brought the whale to the beach for a basic field necropsy.

You can see Kel’s stranding report by clicking here. Please note, there are images of the necropsy, but also a beautiful photo of the animal while it was still alive.

A heartfelt thank you goes to The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation for putting the stranding network together back in 2008, for providing Bimini with its very own stranding response kit and for guidance during last week’s event. And thank you to Dr. Ruth Ewing who took time from her busy day to give much needed necropsy pointers to Kel.

It’s that time of year: students from University of New Brunswick Saint John are in Bimini! On Thursday morning, six of us packed up and departed the SharkLab, where we had spent the last week. We were sad to leave, but we were ready to experience something new. We met Kel at the South Bimini water taxi and headed North. Two of us were still in Fort Lauderdale ready to get to Bimini for the first time! We left the hotel and headed to the airport – but our flight was delayed slightly due to rain. Dr. Turnbull was waiting for us on Bimini, and we headed to North Bimini to meet the rest of the group. Everyone was optimistic (get the title? “dolphin-mistic!”) that it was going to be a great course.

After orientation at the Sea Crest, we got ready to go on the boat for our first dolphin trip. Soon, we did a “dolphin drill” to practice getting in our snorkel gear and getting on and off the boat. We did not see any dolphins, but we did stop and snorkel “The Road to Atlantis” (aka Bimini Road). Some of us think that it might be man-made, but not Atlantis. Others were expecting it to be more spectacular. For those of us who had been to the SharkLab, we recognized many of the fish species; for those of us who just arrived, it was great to see so many new fish! All the fish back home are so bland compared to these!

The weather was getting bad, so we came back, had an early dinner and watched the movie DOLPHINS.

On Friday, we woke up and had breakfast together, followed by a lecture on the dolphins of Bimini. After the lecture, we headed straight to the boat (without Kel ;-(. We headed to the Sapona to snorkel to compare the species diversity and abundance between the port and starboard sides of the concrete ship. We all agreed the port side had more fish, but the starboard had more coral and sponges. On the way back…

We saw dolphins! At first, we saw 3 Atlantic spotted dolphins, but soon we saw 4. We followed them for a little while; there were 3 adults and 1 calfBIM13_C2_TurnbullPhoto (picture here - thanks Professor Turnbull!). At first, five of us got in the water to observe the dolphins. When we first got in, the adults did not interact with us, but the calf did; it was most interested when we were fully under the water and not just resting at the surface. A few of us saw the dolphins feeding - some from the boat and, for the second group of swimmers, under water. The second group also saw the adults interacting with each other – two paired up and had a lot of pectoral fin contact. The calf was a female and one adult was a male. The male adult swam up to us and seemed to check us out. After this great first encounter, we headed back to shore (to brag about it to Kel!).

After lunch, we had a lecture on photo-identification. Then it was time for the boat again. We headed in the same direction as we had seen the dolphins this morning; Nadine saw an eagle ray leap completely out of the water! But, the dolphins were no longer there, so we continued on the normal path to search for them. Unfortunately, before any dolphins were sighted, the weather was again threatening, so we had to return to shore.

We had a delicious supper and then watched The Cove. We turned in our work for the day and headed to bed!

Until tomorrow,

“Aboot 'em dolphins eh?” UNBSJ 2013

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Dolphin Communication Project
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