Assessing the Status of Dolphin Populations Off Maryland’s Coast

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This Friday, July 12, the National Aquarium will participate in our annual Dolphin Count in Ocean City, Maryland. This event (which is free and open to the public!) provides an excellent snapshot of ocean health as well as the status of the dolphin population living off of our shoreline.

Participating in the dolphin count is a lot of fun (who doesn’t love a day at the beach?) and requires only a few basic skills, like the ability to identify animals based on fins or body markings.

dolphin count

The goal of the count is to better understand the reproductive rates as well as gain an estimated total number of dolphins in our local population. Atlantic bottlenose dolphins use Maryland waters as a thoroughfare for migration, summertime breeding and feeding.  While the bottlenose dolphins found off our shores are not considered to be endangered, this species still faces serious threats such as entanglement and bycatch.

Dolphins spotted off the coast of Ocean City. Credit: John Soule

Dolphins spotted off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland. Credit: John Soule

Seeing dolphin social groups interact with one another is a rare opportunity for those who join us for this annual event. Dolphin societies function very differently from our own; females and their calves may stay together for life. Males, however, form separate groups called alliances once they are no longer nursing. These bachelor groups will then travel between the female groups to mate.

Our dolphin population consists primarily of animals that were born here at the National Aquarium or at other aquariums around the country. As we try to mimic the natural group settings that dolphins experience in the wild, our six female dolphins live together in a social group and our two juvenile males have formed an alliance as a pair bond.

In the area? Our Dolphin Count event is free and open to the public! Can’t join us this year? Be sure to follow @NatlAquarium and our Animal Rescue expert @JennDittmar on Twitter for real-time updates! 

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2 Responses to “Assessing the Status of Dolphin Populations Off Maryland’s Coast”


  1. 1 Judy Dierkes July 17, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Keep up the good work National Aquarium! Dolphins are a wonderful local species that are loved by young and old!…what better way to get family and friends educated and involved with local aquatic life while enjoying quality time with those we care about!

  2. 2 Kim HB July 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Just happened upon this story, which is funny because we were fishing in the Patuxent this past weekend (Jul 13th) and a big pod of dolphins swam by. It was amazing! It was in Solomons near the Pax River Naval base waterfront. My first time seeing them in this area.


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