Dolphins live in complex societies and form long
term relationships. Photo by L. Engleby

     Little attention has been given to dolphins and how they are being affected by the ecological disaster occuring in South Florida. In the last 50 years, the severe degradation of the South Florida ecosystem, particularly Florida Bay, has resulted in an 80%-90% decline in other top predators such as brown pelicans, herons and alligators. Sixty-eight species of the Everglades mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants are threatened or endangered. Dolphins are top predators, too, and may depend on many of the fish populations now in decline.

     The largest ecosystem restoration project ever attempted in the United States is underway. This restoration effort intends to restore historic water flow patterns and water quality along with recovering endangered species and habitats over a 20+ year period. No one knows what impacts these changes will have on the dolphins. Currently, agency managers overseeing the restoration efforts have no baseline information about bottlenose dolphin numbers, preferred habitats, seasonal movement, food requirements, or reproduction.