10,000 Island Dolphin Project
Since my last update we have intensified our efforts to determine Seymour's movement patterns in preparation for his (or her) eventual rescue. That a rescue attempt organized by The National Marine Fisheries Service will occur some time in the next month is all but certain - the success of that rescue will, of course, depend on finding the animal on the day the folks from the Marine Mammal Stranding Network move into action.
To that end we have attempted two focal follows of Seymour, the first such attempts at this type of observation for the 10,000 Island Dolphin Project.
Up until now our approach has been simply to document sightings of dolphins along a survey route or transect, stopping just long enough to collect photos and data before moving on to the next sighting. In this manner we can amass data sufficient to document the individuals that compose the population, learn about the association patterns of individual dolphins and get a sense of their range over time.
Concern that we not become a nuisance to these animals or alter their behavior with our presence dictates that we keep these encounters as brief as possible. Most guidelines for ethical marine mammal observation mandate that the vessel not spend more than thirty minutes with a particular group of dolphins; the average duration of our sightings is probably under ten minutes and sometimes we can accomplish our objectives in just a few minutes.
Given the life and death nature of Seymour's predicament, we have attempted on two occasions to stay within sight of him for an extended period of time that we might gain a more nuanced picture of his movements and determine where he goes when not on our usual survey route. The problem with Seymour is that while we see him regularly, often a week or more will pass between sightings and that is not good enough when contemplating a rescue. According to Blair Maise Regional Coordinator for The Marine Mammal Stranding Network for NMFS , they are experiencing a record number or entanglements and their resources are stretched thin. Those resources will be committed only when a reasonable chance of success exists.
Below is a screen shot from Google Earth showing the results of these two follow attempts and all sightings of Seymour in the last year or so. To view this on Google Earth and get access to the data relevant to the sightings, download this link. Download SeymourSFH
Large red targets show Seymour sightings in the last two months
Smaller green targets show sightings for the all 2011
The white line represents a follow of Seymour conducted by Chris Desmond, James Livacarri and Kristin Froehlich Monday, February 6; the yellow line represents a follow conducted by Kent Morse and Dave Strickland on January 15.
Our take from this history is that Seymour's likely location, when not in our usual survey route, is amongst the docks and canals of Marco Island seen here. He spent much of his time as a calf along the sea wall on the north side of the Isles of Capri and while he no longer visits that spot, he may be particular comfortable with feeding along these barriers. If anyone happens to spot Seymour along any of these docks let us know and of course if you spot Seymour or any other injured marine mammal the first call should be to The Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-888-404-FWCC.