NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Sarasota Dolphin Research Program monitors environmental impacts of Piney Point

Teams are conducting dolphin surveys
Posted at 8:52 PM, Apr 09, 2021

SARASOTA, FLA.- — The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program is monitoring dolphins in the area surrounding the gypsum stack spill.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said all discharges of untreated water to Port Manatee have currently stopped. As of Friday, approximately 215 million gallons have been discharged to the port.

The DEP continues to monitor and sample surrounding waterways following previous discharges. The DEP reports no fish kills at this time.

The DEP stated its goal is to ensure that any future required discharges to the port are treated to reduce nutrients entering surrounding waterways and minimize possible ecological impacts such as algal blooms.

The Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program is the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population. It was started in 1970 to study the movements of dolphins in the inshore waters near Sarasota.

Research teams will help understand the effects the spill had on wildlife. Teams will see if dolphins are having any respiratory issues, developing unusual skin conditions or exhibiting any abnormal behavior. Teams will also look to see if dolphins have left the area.

"We are doing dolphin surveys in the vicinity of the wastewater discharge up in Port Manatee with an eye towards the concerns that have been raised about the health of the dolphins in the most acute and immediate sense and long-term ecological implications for what will happen with the discharge waters," said Randall Wells, Director of the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.

The team reports fewer dolphins in the area than they saw in previous surveys. The findings are preliminary and the situation is changing daily, said Wells.

"It's a very changeable situation depending on what's flowing into the bay, what the currents are and it's too early to draw any conclusions, but tentatively what we saw in the early portions of the week was lack of dolphins in the vicinity of Port Manatee," said Wells.

"However, today, our team found a large group of dolphins not far away from Port Manatee."

The Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation has diverted existing funding to the research organization to conduct these surveys and is rallying other donors to make donations.

Any data collected on the dolphins will be given to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).