Environmental officials warn against harmful dolphin feeding…

While Kayaking in Jarvis Creek at the right tide, we get to see the dolphins feed naturally in their environment. Some times they fish alone and other times they fish as a family working together. Dolphins will usually fish by thrash feeding. This is where they may work together and group the fish to a desired shallow side of the creek and whip the tail around  just below and close to the surface of the water sending large splashes around. This sends a shock wave through the water which stuns the fish for a few seconds and allows the dolphin(s) to grab some fish. The other method they do and we occasionally see in Jarvis Creek with lucky timing is “strand feeding.” This is where the dolphin(s) will chase fish to the shallows and sometimes send a wave with them as the dolphin(s) slide up in the mud of the creek embankment grabbing fish and then sliding back into the water.

It is beautiful to enjoy nature in its own environment, doing its own thing on its own terms… and that is what we get to share in when exploring Jarvis Creek.

Story from the Island Packet below.

Environmental officials warn against harmful dolphin feeding…

Each summer, an illegal and harmful trend returns to Beaufort County — the feeding of dolphins in the wild.

Wayne McFee, wildlife biologist with the National Ocean Service, said the practice is reported throughout coastal South Carolina but is “extremely bad” in the Hilton Head Island area, where dolphins are often found frolicking in Broad Creek.

Feeding dolphins violates federal law and puts them at risk of being hit by boat propellers. It changes their foraging behavior and causes them to beg, and it leads to health problems when they are fed things like dead fish and human food, McFee said.

“It’s also a hazard to humans because animals being fed can get aggressive,” McFee said.

Guides with local eco-tours — the “eyes on the water” who usually call in violations — have recently spotted people feeding dolphins from boats, said Al Segars, veterinarian with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

McFee said it appears incidents of dolphin-feeding will be on par with the yearly average of five to 10.

The chance of law enforcement catching people feeding dolphins, however, is slim, Segars said.

The National Ocean Service forwards reports of illegal feedings to the National Marine Fisheries service, which has only has a few enforcement officers based in Charleston, McFee said.

Segars believes public awareness is the key to reducing the practice. Segars said DNR has had workshops asking eco-tour guides to help educate visitors and report violations.

“You get somebody from Kansas who went to SeaWorld that one time, and they probably don’t know you shouldn’t feed the dolphins,” Segars said.

 

Also in the same paper, a sad additional dolphin story.

Uptick in dolphin strandings worries marine scientists

More than 30 dolphins mysteriously washed up dead in the Lowcountry this spring. The big spike in strandings alarms federal researchers enough that they are conducting extensive tests on the remains.

From late February through early May, 32 bottlenose dolphins stranded, mostly in Charleston and Beaufort counties. That’s three times as many as normally would be expected during those months.

“Right now we don’t know why they died,” said Wayne McFee, National Ocean Service marine mammal stranding program scientist. “Most of the animals we’ve had have been really decomposed.” The testing will take months, he said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has designated the strandings as a “unusual mortality event,” because they were unexpected and involved a relatively large number of animals. The designation gives forensic researchers funding to do detailed testing of remains, because of potential environmental and human health threats.

A dolphin that dies because of contamination or a virus can be bad news for people who live along the coast. Because the sea mammals are so close to humans in some ways, they are a prime “canary in the coal mine” of trouble in the water.

Marine mammal strandings along the South Carolina coast tend to spike in the spring and fall each year, when migrating animals are on the move. But in the past few years, strandings have spiked in mid-winter. The most likely explanation is the same winter cold snaps that led to mass bait fish kills along the beaches.

The cold depletes the shallows of food — fish schools for the dolphin.

Dolphins that already are sick can’t catch enough to sustain themselves, so they weaken and gradually die, sometimes of pneumonia.

More than 10,000 bottlenose dolphin are thought to roam along the Southeast coast. Some 40 dolphins strand on South Carolina beaches each year.

Stranded

An average of 52 marine mammals get stranded each year in South Carolina:

  • 80% are bottlenose dolphins
  • 10% are pygmy and dwarf sperm whales
  • Most live strandings are single animals that are sick and dying.
  • Most animals must be euthanized.
  • 25% of bottlenose dolphins strand with evidence of human interaction, usually entanglements or ingested plastics.Source: South Carolina Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Coastal Carolina University