[MARMAM] New Publication: Vessels Disturb Bottlenose Dolphin Behavior and Movement in an Active Ship Channel

Eliza Mills eliza.m.mills at gmail.com
Wed Nov 8 13:29:06 PST 2023


Dear colleagues,

On behalf of my co-authors, I am pleased to announce our recent publication in Animals:

Mills, E.M.M., Piwetz, S., Orbach, D.N. 2023. Vessels Disturb Bottlenose Dolphin Behavior and Movement in an Active Ship Channel. Animals 13(22):3441. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13223441 <https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fdoi.org%2F10.3390%2Fani13223441&data=05%7C01%7Cemills1%40islander.tamucc.edu%7Cf3be02061c75476ae12a08dbe08b93cf%7C34cbfaf167a64781a9ca514eb2550b66%7C0%7C0%7C638350662340716158%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=OXySvadzsLuTGXqGMf5l3Q5aFFhctL9bBKinQ0vnd6w%3D&reserved=0> 

Simple Summary

Dolphins alter their behavior and movement in response to human coastal activities (e.g., commercial shipping, dredging, ecotourism). The Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, is the largest port in the USA based on total revenue tonnage, yet little research has been conducted on the local bottlenose dolphins since the 1980s, prior to major oil exportation and infrastructure growth. The behavior and movement patterns of dolphins in the presence and absence of vessels were recorded using a shore-based digital theodolite and analyzed using multinomial logistic regression and generalized additive models. Dolphins frequently foraged, traveled, socialized, and milled in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel despite the presence of one or more vessels within 300 m of dolphins during 80% of observations. Dolphin behavior and movement patterns were significantly affected by season, time of day, group composition, and vessel characteristics. Dolphins appear to remain in the active Texas ship channel despite high vessel traffic. The observed dolphin–vessel interactions emphasize the need for long-term monitoring of dolphins near human activities and enforced boating regulations near important marine mammal habitats.

Abstract

Although the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, has become a top oil exporter, it is unknown if local dolphins are disturbed by high year-round vessel traffic. A shore-based digital theodolite and automatic identification system receiver were used to record data to assess common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) behavioral states and movement patterns in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel (CCSC) in relation to vessel traffic. Multinomial logistic regression and generalized additive models were applied to analyze the data. Vessels were present within 300 m of dolphins during 80% of dolphin observations. Dolphins frequently foraged (40%), traveled (24%), socialized (15%), and milled (14%), but rarely oriented against the current (7%) or rested (1% of observations). Season, time of day, group size, vessel type, vessel size, and number of vessels were significant predictors of dolphin behavioral state. Significant predictors of dolphin movement patterns included season, time of day, group size, calf presence, vessel type, and vessel numbers. The CCSC is an important foraging area for dolphins, yet the high level of industrial activity puts the dolphins at risk of human-related disturbance and injury. There is a crucial need to monitor the impact of increased anthropogenic influences on federally protected dolphins in the active CCSC, with broad application to dolphins in other ports.  

The article is open access and freely available:  https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13223441 <https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fdoi.org%2F10.3390%2Fani13223441&data=05%7C01%7Cemills1%40islander.tamucc.edu%7Cf3be02061c75476ae12a08dbe08b93cf%7C34cbfaf167a64781a9ca514eb2550b66%7C0%7C0%7C638350662340716158%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=OXySvadzsLuTGXqGMf5l3Q5aFFhctL9bBKinQ0vnd6w%3D&reserved=0> 

Best regards,

Eliza Mills, MS
Functional Anatomy & Behavioral Ecology of Marine Mammals
Department of Life Sciences
Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi, Texas
eliza.m.mills at gmail.com <mailto:eliza.m.mills at gmail.com>




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