Immediate Response of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins to High-Speed Personal Watercraft in the Mississippi Sound

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Measuring the impact of anthropogenic factors on marine mammals is critical to the conservation of these species. Recently, the effect of personal watercraft on marine mammal behaviour and well-being has become a topic of increasing concern. 7 lie purpose of this study was to examine the immediate effects of high-speed personal watercraft on Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) behaviour. Opportunistic surveys were conducted front a research vessel in the Mississippi Sound (30 degrees 13 ' 22.6 '' N 89 degrees 0.1 ' 36.5 '' W)from September 2003 through to August 2005. The passing of a high-speed personal watercraft significantly increased dolphin dive duration, dolphin group cohesion and dolphin breathing synchrony. Additionally, in 47% of the encounters a dolphin groups behaviour changed within one minute of the presence of a high-speed personal watercraft. The most notable changes were tin increase in dolphin travelling behaviour and a decrease in feeding behaviour following the boat's presence. The results demonstrated an immediate, short-term change in dolphin behaviour, suggesting that all increase in the frequency of high-speed personal watercraft in this area could produce long-term detrimental effects. Research on the long-term effects of boat traffic on marine mammals is clearly needed to assess and hopefully mediate any potential long-term effects.

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Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom





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