Dol­phins greet boaters near Kent Is­land

Record Observer - - News -

KENT IS­LAND — Bot­tlenose dol­phins are mak­ing their an­nual ap­pear­ance in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. The largest es­tu­ary in North Amer­ica, the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay has a length of 200 miles and 11,684 miles of tidal shore­line, more than the en­tire U.S. West Coast. Home to many species, the bot­tlenose dol­phin has been mak­ing reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances in the wa­ters around Kent Is­land.

Jan Jones shared a photo taken from her boat on July 1 by friend Ash­ley Leighty. Jones’ boat was just north of Love Point when they no­ticed the dol­phin breach the wa­ter. They stopped and watched as a few pods passed by, and Jones es­ti­mated the an­i­mals came within 30 to 50 yards of their wa­ter­craft. She said they didn’t want to get too close, but they were very ex­cited to have a chance to ob­serve.

Jones is not the only one to ob­serve these play­ful crea­tures, sight­ings around the Bay Bridge and from points near Wye Is­land north to­ward the Chester River have been on the rise since late June, with in­creased sight­ings since the be­gin­ning of July.

The Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence in­vites ev­ery­one who spends time on or near the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay to re­port dol­phin sight­ings with a new on­line track­ing sys­tem. Ch­e­sa­peake Dol­phinWatch al­lows users to mark the lo­ca­tion of their dol­phin sight­ings on a map of the Ch­e­sa­peake and its trib­u­taries so sci­en­tists can bet­ter un­der­stand where the dol­phins are and where they go. The on­line tracker is ac­ces­si­ble at www.chesa­peakedol­phin­watch.org.

Thanks to the dol­phin track­ing site, peo­ple have the abil­ity to view the lo­ca­tions of re­cent and past dol­phin sight­ings on a map, and the tracker pro­vides in­for­ma­tion about dol­phins and the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

Us­ing in­for­ma­tion gath­ered from the dol­phin tracker, Dr. He­len Bai­ley and her team at the Ch­e­sa­peake Bi­o­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tor y, Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence in Cam­bridge, are study­ing how of­ten dol­phins ac­tu­ally come into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, how long they spend here, what ar­eas of the Bay they are us­ing and why.

“We’d like to in­crease peo­ple’s aware­ness of the dol­phins and col­lect data at the same time,” said Bai­ley. She spe­cial­izes in study­ing the move­ments of marine mam­mals. “Whether you’re at home, whether you have a com­mu­nity pier, you live near the wa­ter, or you go out on the wa­ter, we need your eyes on the sea telling us where are the dol­phins.”

By track­ing the oc­cur­rence of dol­phins and their move­ments, Bai­ley hopes to gain a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how bot­tlenose dol­phins use the Bay and how to pro­tect them in our lo­cal wa­ters.

“Right now we have such scarce in­for­ma­tion. This is re­ally the first time we are sys­tem­at­i­cally record­ing this,” said Bai­ley. “We are hear­ing anec­do­tally that dol­phins are be­com­ing more fre­quent vis­i­tors to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, but we re­ally don’t have much in­for­ma­tion at all about where they are go­ing and when. The more eyes we have on the wa­ter the bet­ter to re­port dol­phin sight­ings. We think that cit­i­zens can make very good ci­ti­zen sci­en­tists.”

Ear­lier in July, U.S. Sen­a­tors Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen an­nounced $4.66 mil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing for the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, pro­vided by sev­eral U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency grants. The EPA is the lead fed­eral part­ner in a multi-agency ef­fort that sup­ports re­gional im­ple­men­ta­tion of pro­grams that con­trib­ute to a health­ier Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

Ac­cord­ing to the sen­a­tors, some of those funds will go to­ward help­ing the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources ad­min­is­ter a Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Im­ple­men­ta­tion Grant pro­gram. More than $500,000 was awarded to help the Ch­e­sa­peake Re­search Con­sor­tium Inc. sup­port the out­comes and goals of the 2014 Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Wa­ter­shed Agree­ment, and $61,000 will be al­lot­ted to data man­age­ment and anal­y­sis ser­vices.

“These grants rep­re­sent a fed­eral in­vest­ment in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and the count­less lo­cally owned busi­nesses, water­men and farm­ers whose liveli­hoods de­pend on a healthy Bay ... A healthy Bay means a healthy econ­omy,” said Cardin, a se­nior mem­ber of the Se­nate En­vi­ron­ment and Public Works Com­mit­tee. “I’ll keep fight­ing to en­sure the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram is fully funded in the 2018 bud­get.”

“Taken to­gether, these four grants will help Mary­land make progress to im­prove the health of the en­tire Ch­e­sa­peake Bay wa­ter­shed,” said Van Hollen, Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee mem­ber. “The Bay is a nat­u­ral trea­sure that is also essen­tial to Mary­land’s econ­omy — in­clud­ing the tourism, fish­ing, and boat­ing in­dus­tries. We’ll keep fight­ing to en­sure the Bay is clean and thriv­ing.”

Dol­phin sight­ing north of Love Point on July 1.

A web-based app, users can help track dol­phin sight­ings. The in­for­ma­tion is be­ing used by the Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence to learn more about dol­phins and the Bay.

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