Decoy Dolphins Help Raise Awareness for Stranding Network

by Dauphin Island Sea Lab

dolphin decoy on beach

During the last few months, residents and visitors may have seen small, gray canvas decoy dolphins on the beaches and marshes around Dauphin Island. These decoys were part of a public sighting and reporting assessment project led by scientists with the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network (ALMMSN) based at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

The goal of the project was to determine the detection and reporting rates for stranded dolphins in Alabama in different seasons and habitat types and to increase awareness for reporting stranded mammals to the ALMMSN. Each decoy included a card with the Southeast United States stranding hotline number, the same number used to report actual stranded animals. Researchers could then track reports about the decoys in the same manner as stranded marine mammals.

two researchers set dolphin decoy on beach

“The project was a success,” said Dr. Jennifer Bloodgood, lead researcher on the project. “We received numerous sightings from the public, including many people who had never reported a stranded marine mammal before. This project increased people’s awareness of the reporting process, and we look forward to analyzing the data by season and habitat type and sharing those results as soon as possible.”

Data collected through this project will help scientists better estimate the total number of dolphin strandings, identify areas and times of need for additional awareness in Alabama, and inform conservation and management decisions for dolphins and other marine mammal species.

The ALMMSN team thanks all the people who reported the decoys to the stranding hotline. Some of the decoys went missing during the project. You can help ALMMSN with this project by reporting any decoys if they were not previously reported or by locating the decoys that were displaced during the survey. If you or someone you know has information on the whereabouts of decoys, please call the ALMMSN office at 251-861-2141 ext. 7557.

To report stranded marine mammals in Alabama, call ALMMSN at 1-877-WHALE-HELP (942-5343).