02 September 2018

A Bottlenose Farewell

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Shortly after breakfast on Thursday morning, Kel and the DCP guests met for a discussion on ecotourism. Kel was able to share the voluntary Code of Conduct that Bimini Adventures, Captain Al’s ecotour company, and the other consistent dolphin ecotour group operating out of Bimini agreed upon to define the appropriate way of observing the dolphins around Bimini. (Click here to see the guidelines yourself.) Generally, the document describes when it is appropriate to observe dolphins, it defines resting and foraging behavior (which are the times it is always inappropriate to follow the dolphins) and provides the best practices for driving boats and swimming with the dolphins (e.g. drive slowly, no sharp turns; do not touch, feed, or chase). The conversation with the guests also delved into the importance of hiring local people as much as possible and trying to minimize any impact on the environment while on vacation. It was a great discussion and it was nice to hear everyone’s opinions, especially given the diverse backgrounds of the guests.

In the afternoon, after our last lovely lunch of the week, we departed the dock at 1400 with every intention of first stopping to snorkel at Bimini Road before searching for dolphins. Those clever dolphins had other plans for us, though! Less than 15 minutes into our journey, we came across a large group of foraging bottlenose dolphins. Crater-feeding is the one foraging behavior we are able to observe off Bimini, and over the years DCP has not detected any behavior indicating that our presence disturbs the bottlenose when they are feeding in this manner. This group was very cooperative, permitting Kel and the guests to observe them underwater, as well as surfacing plenty of times for Nicole to collect surface photos. Upon returning to the boat, the guests were marveling at the crater-feeding foraging technique the dolphins were using. They really dig into the sand with their rostra, which must mean the treats their fishing out are yummy because the sand here is rough!

Eventually, it was time to leave the dolphins to their feeding, so we resumed our course to Bimini Road. As we approached, however, Captain Kat noticed that a squall to the East was approaching and might cross right over our planned snorkeling destination. To avoid it, we instead searched for dolphins for a while, allowing the squall to move off. We did eventually end up back at Bimini Road and the guests were able to enjoy seeing many different species of fish and invertebrates, including lots of sergeant majors, stoplight parrot fish, and angelfishes!

Once everyone was satisfied with their observations and back on the boat, we set off to look for dolphins once again. Though the squall never actually reached us, it left lots of wind which made the ride a bit bumpy. We had no luck finding spotted dolphins in the “usual” areas, but as we headed back towards home, Captain Kat made sure to pass through the area where we had seen the bottlenose earlier in the afternoon. Sure enough, they were still there! While we didn’t see as many of them as the first time, the ones we saw were definitely some of the same individuals. They must have found a really “juicy” spot for foraging! We snapped some more surface photos of this group and then continued toward the harbor. The bottlenose “waved” us off with their flukes—a wonderful end to a great week for our guests. And a nice way of ending the DCP Bimini field season. We’re already looking forward to sharing with you our adventures with the Bimini dolphins again next year!

Until next time,

Nicole & Kel

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.

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