Annual Dolphin Count Draws Record Number of Volunteers - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Annual Dolphin Count Draws Record Number of Volunteers

Posted: 07/26/2017 17:19:00 -04:00 Updated:

LEWES, Del. - Dozens of people from across the mid-Atlantic came to Lewes one Saturday in July to help the MERR Institute's annual dolphin count.

"We have about 100 volunteers this year," says Executive Director Suzanne Thurman. "And the most sites we've ever had: we have 37 sites and every single one is covered to maximum capacity."

The sites stretch from the inland bays to Woodland Beach in Smyrna all the way south to Fenwick Island. During the count, volunteers simply keep track of the amount of dolphins they see for two hours in their designated site. Thurman says even though it's an informal number, it provides incredibly valuable information. 

"We can look at trends, we can look at spikes, we can look at declines," explains Thurman. "If it's very drastic and ongoing, we can alert NOAA so there is a more formal aerial census done."

A total of 246 dolphins were counted this year, down from 285 the previous year. Thurman says that's to be expected, as the population is still recovering from the "Dolphin Die Off" of 2013. Thurman says new events such as proposed seismic testing off the coast could impact the dolphins negatively, so the count is more important than ever.

"For us to have data is the significant piece that allows us to show any potential changes or impacts," she says. "We have to have the data, we can't just say we think dolphins are being impacted, we have to have hard facts."

As serious as the count is, it also provides an opportunity for people to volunteer and re-connect with some of their favorite creatures. People drove from as far as Pennsylvania and southern Virginia to take part this year.

"Those creatures are just so highly intelligent," says volunteer Heather Geare. "I think just the tremendous amount of effects the water has on all of us....that's why we need to do more as far as protecting them and respecting the creatures as well."

For more information on the MERR Institute, click here


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