Cara C. Perry
FAU Harbor Branch Receives Support from The Moorings Club to Protect Wild Dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon
FORT PIERCE, FL (July 2, 2012) – The Moorings Club in Vero Beach is the first waterfront community on the Treasure Coast to sponsor the “Protect Wild Dolphins” Dock Sign Program, an effort by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University to protect Indian River Lagoon (IRL) dolphins through education. One of these signs will be prominently featured on The Moorings’ lagoon frontage, providing facts about IRL dolphins, threats they face and what the public can do to alleviate these threats. The proceeds from this program benefit Harbor Branch marine mammal research, conservation and education initiatives. All communities and marinas across the region are encouraged to join this important awareness program.
“When we heard about Harbor Branch’s new interpretive dock sign initiative, we wanted to be the first community association to get on board,” stated Craig Lopes, general manager of The Moorings Club. “We are placing the sign in an area where it will be visible by land and lagoon and to our Moorings residents and visitors alike. We are hoping other local communities will now get involved too.”
The program grew from a collaborative effort between the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation (HBOIF), which continually works to involve the public in Harbor Branch research, and the Harbor Branch Population Biology and Behavioral Ecology Program (PBBE), which had been considering development of IRL dolphin public education signs. PBBE faculty and staff developed the sign graphics and educational content, and HBOIF is focused on spreading the word about the program.
Steve McCulloch, program manager of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation at Harbor Branch, focuses on protecting wild dolphin populations and educating the public about their important role as sentinels of ocean and human health.
“We have North America’s most biodiverse estuary right in our backyard, and it’s our responsibility to help conserve it,” said McCulloch. “Educating people about how they can help is a big part of this.”
According to McCulloch, monofilament fishing line is the most common cause of deadly dolphin entanglements, and an omnipresent danger for other marine life such as sea turtles, birds and manatees. Harbor Branch stranding responders were recognized earlier this year by the National Marine Fisheries Service for their successful efforts to locate, catch, disentangle, evaluate, treat and release 34 dolphins that had become entangled in man-made materials, including a fan belt and phone lanyard, since 2000. Other human activities also pose threats, such as the illegal feeding of wild dolphins, boat strikes and heavy boat traffic.
To sponsor a dock sign or make a donation to help protect wild dolphins, contact Janet Alford, executive director of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, at 772-466-9876, ext. 224, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Florida motorists also can contribute by purchasing a Protect Wild Dolphins specialty license platefor their car, truck, boat trailer or RV. If you see a marine animal in distress, contact Florida Wildlife Commission Dispatchers at 888-404-FWCC.
About Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute :
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research institute dedicated to exploration, innovation, conservation and education related to the oceans. Harbor Branch was founded in 1971 as a private non-profit organization. In December 2007, Harbor Branch joined Florida Atlantic University.The institute specializes in ocean engineering, at-sea operations, drug discovery and biotechnology from the oceans, coastal ecology and conservation, marine mammal research and conservation, aquaculture, and marine education. For more information, visit www.hboi.fau.edu.
About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.