Sunday, September 13, 2009

Testing Monterey Dolphins for Toxicity

We set out onto Monterey Bay at 7am each of the last two days into heavy fog. On day 1 the fog lifted and we had magnificent weather on a flat sea with no wind. Yesterday the fog never relented and the swell was higher but expert boat handling allowed us to carry out the work.

The bottlenose here in Monterey Bay live literally in the surf line or just outside it. We frequently saw them ride waves towards shore and then come blasting thru the backside of the waves. It was a joy. And to make the miracle of Monterey Bay even more there were sea lions and sea otters everywhere.

As we continually report the levels of organochlorine and heavy metal toxicity in dolphins worldwide has grown at an alarming pace. This induces immunosuppression in the dolphins opening them to serious disease and reduced reproduction.

In Monterey a non-profit group known as Okeanis (daughter of Poseidon) is testing bottlenose dolphins which have presented wide spread skin lesions, an indication of suppressed immune resistance. These tests are essential to discover the levels of contamination in the dolphins, which act as sentinels of the condition of the oceans because they are feed at the apex of the marine food chain and are coastal dwelling. Once the tox levels are determined the obvious next step is to look for ways of cleaning up the waters that flow into Monterey Bay which lays adjacent to intensively cultivated agricultural areas - obvious sources of pesticides.

I really enjoyed my time on the water with Daniela Maldini, president of Okeanis, Mark Cotter who does the photo IDs with an astonishingly acute eye and Tom Jefferson who does the tissue sampling. These are highly dedicated people doing extremely important work.

The work by Okeanis is being carried out under permit by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

1 comment:

peter said...

The bottlenose is like the model for the image that everyone has of dolphins. I went to an aquarium and could touch a bottle nose dolphin and I was giving some Viagra Online just for doing that.