Major milestone🐬: Galveston Bay Dolphin Research Program catalogs 1,000th distinct bottlenose dolphin

GALVESTON, Texas – A major milestone has been reached for the program that works to better understand bottlenose dolphins in Galveston Bay.

The Galveston Bay Dolphin Research Program recently cataloged its 1,000th distinct bottlenose dolphin that calls the bay home.

Anyone who has ever seen a dolphin, or a pod of dolphins, knows the good it does for our mind and soul.

For us, in Houston, we are fortunate to share Galveston Bay with these highly intelligent-remarkable creatures.

“A lot of these dolphins are residents here, which means they will spend their entire lives right here in Galveston Bay,” explained Kristi Fazioli, a research associate with the University of Houston-Clear Lake and an investigator with the Galveston Bay Dolphin Research Program. “One thousand in our catalog for Galveston Bay and those are distinct dolphins we can identify. That’s not to say that’s the exact number that uses the bay because we know there are around 800 – 1,200 throughout the year that uses the Bay at different times of the year, but some might be residents, transient.”

Galveston Bay Dolphin Research Program is a partnership between Galveston Bay Foundation and Environmental Institute of Houston.

“We monitor the dolphins’ long term to get baseline data and learn about how they are using the bay and what habitats are important to find out if they are thriving here and that way, we can keep track of them. We do what is called photo identification and take their photos of dorsal fins and that can tell us the individual animal due to nicks and notches in their fins are unique kind of like a fingerprint and so we can track all the individuals in the bay,” said Fazioli.

Alyssa Quackenbush is a research assistant with the Galveston Bay Dolphin Research Program. She’s behind the camera, capturing photos.

“Some of the adopted dolphins we saw today were Steve, who is our most recently named dolphin. Calypso,” said Quackenbush.

Although the dolphins are cataloged by numbers, people have the opportunity to adopt and name dolphins through the program. Gestation for dolphins is one year. The calving season is typically early spring. Calves will stay close to mom for two to four years, often times appearing in an echelon position or swimming. This is also the time when they learn behavior, and this is why having a healthy habitat is critical.

The program started in 2013, but regular surveys were conducted beginning in 2014. The study is continuous. Scientists are closely looking into the impacts dredging and other industrial activities in the bay have on dolphins.

In a statement, a scientist with the program said, “Dredging activities can cause an increase in underwater noise, vessel activity, habitat modification, sediment suspension and related release of toxic compounds harbored in channel sediment. All of these can have negative consequences on the health and survival of individuals and the population.”

Scientists have a permit that allows them to approach the dolphins within a safe distance. If you are out boating and see dolphins, remember to stay at least 50 yards away from them. You can stop your engine, but it is illegal to approach them.

About the Author:

Zachery “Zach” Lashway anchors KPRC 2+ Now. He began at KPRC 2 as a reporter in October 2021.