INTERACTIONS BETWEEN THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON BLUE CRAB FISHERY AND THE BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN, TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS

Authors

  • Wendy D. Noke,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32801, U.S.A. E-mail: wnoke@hswri.org SeaWorld, Inc. 7007 Sea World Drive, Orlando, Florida 32821, U.S.A.
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      Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, 6295 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32821, U.S.A.

  • Daniel K. Odell

    1. Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32801, U.S.A. E-mail: wnoke@hswri.org SeaWorld, Inc. 7007 Sea World Drive, Orlando, Florida 32821, U.S.A.
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      Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, 6295 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32821, U.S.A.


Abstract

Anecdotal reports from blue crab fishermen in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida suggested that bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) followed their boats, and stole bait fish from crab pots soon after they were deployed. To investigate these reports, we made biweekly observations from IRL commercial crab boats from January 1998 to January 1999 (670 h). Only 2.8% of the 18,891 crab pots surveyed revealed evidence of dolphin/crab pot interaction. Dolphin interactions included: (1) begging at boats, (2) feeding on discarded bait fish, (3) engaging in crab pot tipping behavior, and (4) dolphin mortality from crab pot float line entanglement. Overall, 16.6% of the 1,296 dolphins sighted interacted with fishing boats. Seasonal trends were evident, with fishery interactions peaking in the summer. Crab pot interactions ranged from 0% to 36% of the traps checked daily. Different methods of securing the bait-well door and the role of trap locality were tested using a replicated experimental design. Results showed significant differences in successful bait removal by dolphins, among the degrees of door security (P < 0.001) and between trap location (P < 0.01). Thus, increased door security may help to reduce the negative impacts to the fishery and dolphins involved.

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