Dolphin Conservation Project: Boat Repairs
Organized by: Steve Shippee
Help needed to acquire a replacement motor for our survey boat.
We began to monitor the dolphin families around Destin East Pass in the Florida Panhandle in 2006 and have identified over 100 individuals that frequent this inlet area. We use a technique called Photo-identification to capture images of the dolphins from our survey boat. Those images reveal unique characteristics (nicks and scars) on the animal's fins and body that make them easy to tell apart and catalog. The adult dolphins in Destin have very high site fidelity and can be found in the area on most days of the year.
This study has been ongoing for almost a decade and we have been able to catalog numerous females with multiple calves born over these years, as well follow the progression of the juveniles into early adulthood. This work allows us to determine the survival rates and relative population sizes of the dolphin community that inhabits this localized area. Sadly, we have also discovered many threats to their survival, the biggest of which is caused by human interactions.
Our mission is to foster a conservation program to develop an etiquette for responsible dolphin watching that gives the animals space, modeled on the Dolphin SMART program. We are working with local ecotour boat captains to develop this program, since their business depends on the long-term health and well-being of the dolphins that they take visitors to see. We find that uninformed boaters engage in activities that force dolphins to change their normal behaviors, resulting in them not being able to forage in their favorite areas, or causing young calves to separate from their mothers long enough to get into trouble with predators or encounter boat propellers. Our tour operator partners are eager to conduct outreach to curtail the overenthusiastic weekend boaters and give the dolphins some space to be wild. And we are eager to monitor the effectiveness of this program by continuing our photo-identification surveys.
In order to make this happen, we need to replace the aging motor on our survey boat, which is a 20' cuddy cabin with observation tower. A replacement motor (used but in good working condition) will cost about $8,000 based on the frequent listings for sale in the area and on ebay. We are a small group of dedicated researchers with a very small budget, and we can't afford to purchase this large ticket item out of pocket. We appreciate your help - thanks for any assistance in helping us make this happen!