Nature Niche: How Do Dolphins Endure Red Tide?

Nature Niche

Special to the Parade

With this red tide we are having, I am getting many inquiries about how our dolphins are handling it for so long.

We first saw this red tide up the shipping channel weeks ago, and now it is spreading like a wildfire to the south of us in Mexico, from the north and in the bay up the channel and into the Bahia Grande. Though no one really understands fully yet what conditions lead to the bloom of this tiny organism, lack of rain causing the waters to become more salty is thought to set off the bloom.

When a bloom starts it goes crazy, and the amount of organisms in one drop of water can go from one to thousands. The toxins given off are felt when mixed with water vapor, thus the cough, stinging eyes and pepper smell to our noses. As long as it is calm, we do not feel the toxins. So the fish die because of lack of oxygen as the red tide depletes it.

Nature Niche pic-10-27-11We can go in our homes, shut the door and wait it out. Dolphins have to live in it. On a recent trip up the channel on a bay shrimper, we pulled up nothing but dead and dying fish. It was a sad sight, and there in all the water of death, our dolphins were feeding. One thing I have noticed during red tide epidemics, the dolphins will squeeze the guts out of fish before they eat them. They have to know how to deal with red tide, but I think that seeing all the death around them must stir their emotions. I also see that their blow holes, their nose, gets really red during red tide, so it does irritate them too.

I saw little Mohawk and her family group right up in that black tea water, the air filled with a pepper smell, and I felt that she was being reassured by her family that this will pass. I have never seen it last this long, and I feel the new opening to the Bahia Grande may be playing a role in the thick concentration of it up on the channel. Perhaps rain is the answer, or a few days of west wind to blow it out to sea, but it will eventually go away and our dolphins will be happy for it.

Our fish, they have had it tough with the freeze this year and now red tide… they have had it real tough. But given time and conservation, they will return and our dolphins’ nature niche can get back to normal.

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