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NOAA SPEARHEADS AQUARIUM DOLPHIN RESCUE NEAR MISSISSIPPI
Hurricane Katrina Washes Trained Dolphins into Sound

NOAA image of dolphins being fed in the Gulf of Mexico that were washed out of their pool at the Marine Life Aquarium in Gulfport, Miss., by a huge wave generated by Hurricane Katrina.Sept. 14, 2005 The NOAA Fisheries Service and the Marine Life Aquarium of Gulfport, Miss., are planning to rescue eight aquarium dolphins from the Mississippi Sound in the next few days. The eight bottlenose dolphins were swept out of an aquarium tank by an estimated 40-foot wave during Hurricane Katrina. This is the first large marine mammal rescue effort since Hurricane Katrina. (Click NOAA image for larger view of dolphins being fed in the Gulf of Mexico that were washed out of their pool at the Marine Life Aquarium in Gulfport, Miss., by a huge wave generated by Hurricane Katrina. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

NOAA Fisheries Service scientists spotted the dolphins swimming on Saturday while conducting an aerial survey of natural resource damage. Because these dolphins are from a captive facility, they do not forage for food or necessarily have the survival skills necessary to avoid predators or boat traffic. Marine Life Aquarium trainers and NOAA Fisheries Service biologists have been feeding the dolphins several times a day from a NOAA vessel. The group includes two mother dolphins with two young in tow.

NOAA aerial image of the damage done to the Marine Life Aquarium in Gulfport, Miss., by Hurricane Katrina, which generated a wave so large that it washed out bottlenose dolphins into the Gulf of Mexico."We are so pleased to have found these dolphins and that they are all together," said NOAA Fisheries Service lead veterinarian Teri Rowles. "Our biologists and the trainers say all of them appear significantly underweight and have severe to minor wounds. These animals have been swimming in water, where we are unsure of the conditions, and have been nutritionally stressed for two weeks. We remain cautiously optimistic that they will recover from this ordeal." (Click NOAA aerial image for larger view of the damage done to the Marine Life Aquarium in Gulfport, Miss., by Hurricane Katrina, which generated a wave so large that it washed out bottlenose dolphins into the Gulf of Mexico. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Due to the condition of the water and the difficulty of the rescue, biologists will capture the dolphins in stages. They plan to transport the dolphins to nearby salt-water pools, provided by the U.S. Navy, to give them medical care and to evaluate them for contagious disease. Rowles said the dolphins would be kept in quarantine while scientists assess their overall health.

NOAA image of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina to the Marine Life Aquarium stadium pool in Gulfport, Miss."Three of these eight dolphins were born at the facility and had never been in the wild, compacting our concern for their well being," said Moby Solangi, owner and director for the Marine Life Aquarium. "Once we realized the dolphins had been swept out to sea during the hurricane, we feared that they had died. We are just thrilled that they have stayed together during the past couple of weeks." (Click NOAA image for larger view of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina to the Marine Life Aquarium stadium pool in Gulfport, Miss. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The effort to rescue the eight dolphins now involves various partners including the U.S. Navy, the Air National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

Days before the hurricane, workers at the aquarium were able to move another group of dolphins into a local hotel swimming pool. These animals survived and were moved to the Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The eight dolphins being rescued were moved to a 30-foot high tank at the aquarium that survived Hurricane Camille in 1969.

The NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving the nation's living marine resources and their habitat through scientific research, management and enforcement. NOAA Fisheries Service provides effective stewardship of these resources for the benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Bottlenose Dolphin Information

NOAA Fisheries Service

NOAA Fisheries Service Southeast Region

Media Contact:
Connie Barclay, NOAA Fisheries Service, (301) 713-2370 or Kim Amendola, NOAA Fisheries Service Southeast Region, (727) 551-5707
(Photos courtesy of the Marine Life Aquarium in Gulfport, Miss.)