OCEAN CITY – Staff from the National Aquarium Animal Rescue program were joined by volunteers last Friday for the annual Maryland Dolphin Count. This year, 113 dolphins were sighted.
Volunteers of all ages came out between 8-11 a.m. to help record dolphin sightings at four locations along the Eastern Shore of Maryland – Assateague State Park Day Use Area; 40th Street in Ocean City; 81st Street in Ocean City; and 130th Street in Ocean City.
Annual dolphin counts help marine mammal specialists capture a snapshot look at dolphin populations, reproduction rates and ocean health. Looking at the population numbers over the years can help to determine the health of the coastal ecosystem as well as the abundance of prey.
During the 2012 dolphin count, 31 dolphins were recorded, which is lower than average, and likely a result of several factors including the weather, bigger swells and food availability. In 2011, 107 dolphins were recorded, which is relatively normal.
"The entire team from National Aquarium is incredibly thankful to all the volunteers who joined us for this year’s Dolphin Count,” said Jennifer Dittmar, Animal Rescue Program Stranding Coordinator.
Prior to the annual count, an annual fundraiser was held at Seacrets: Jamaica USA. Between funds raised through the event and donations, $2,660 was raised for the National Aquarium Animal Rescue Program.
Since 1991, the National Aquarium Animal Rescue Program has been responsible for responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles along the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Peninsula, primarily along the nearly 7,000 miles of coastline in Maryland, including the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coasts.