Ongoing Research The Dolphin Explorer research is ongoing and The Marco Review features updates on their fi ndings in every issue. To learn more about this project see the Dolphin Explorer's ads on pages 66 and 67 or visit www.dolphin-explorer.comThe dolphins that make their home in the waters around Marco Island are a favorite of residents and visitors alike, but this spring one briefl y managed to capture the attention of the national media. On March 13, a 600-pound dolphin, long familiar to us as Oscar, leaped into the air and the national spotlight. Leaping into the air isn't new for dolphins but Oscar guaranteed his fi fteen minutes of fame when, instead of reentering the water with a splash, he landed inside a passing private boat cruising the Marco River. What's the big fuss? I didn't hurt anyone.Fortunately Oscar's sudden and unexpected arrival onto the deck of the boat did not result in serious injury to dolphin or human participants in the drama. One passenger's ankle was sprained and Oscar had a few superfi cial cuts. Everyone was rather shaken up though. What ensued was a titanic effort involving responders from the Isles of Capri Fire Control and Rescue District, Florida Fish and Wildlife and the Collier County Sherriff's Offi ce to some-how return Oscar back to the water. At 600-700 pounds he proved too heavy for ten men to lift. In the end they accomplished the task by tying a rope to his tailstock, getting him onto a backboard and tipping the backboard toward the front of the boat. The rope was untied as he slid down the board and back into the water.Searching for the culpritWhen we at the 10,000 Island Dolphin Project heard about the incident, we scoured the available media reports for a photo of the hapless dolphin's dorsal fi n. Each is unique and fi nding that picture would tell us which individual from our local population had man-aged to create such a stir. When we found a clear photo, identifi cation was immediate - Oscar's rather banged up dorsal, features a distinctive notch at the top of the fi n and a square chunk missing from its base. I have to say I was a bit surprised. It is rather common to see calves or sub-adult dolphins charging about and leaping into the air. And, in fact, the last time a dolphin jumped in a boat around here the culprit was only 150 pounds. Oscar, however, is a mature adult male.Bonding is good for youHe is one member of a community of about 75 dolphins whose range regularly brings them into the Marco River. Since 2006 we have sighted Oscar over 150 times; 45 of those sightings have been in the Marco River. In nearly every sighting, he is accompanied by another mature adult male dolphin named Sharks. Scientists at the Sarasota Dolphin Research Institute discovered that males often enter these relationships as they reach maturity and that the bond can last for decades until one of the part-ners dies. They found that these alliances increase the reproductive success of male dolphins competing for females and can also confer benefi ts in foraging and dealing with predators. In 35 of the 150 plus recorded sightings of Oscar and Sharks, the two of them are foraging or travelling alone. In over 100 other sightings they were associating with one or another of the fi fteen mature females in the area. We have seen both Oscar and Sharks together on numerous occasions since the day of his big adventure and to all appearances he seems to have weath-ered the experience without lasting diffi culties.Doubtless Oscar was with his buddy on that fateful day when he leaped in the air. Imagine Shark's surprise when he didn't come back down. And while we know from news reports how the humans involved experienced this event, I wonder how Oscar explained his absence to Sharks!
The Sea Gone Fishing Team have over 80 years of local fi shing knowledge and, whether you're a serious angler who wants to catch "the big one" or a family looking for a fun day on the water, they'll tailor make your trip just for you. Of course, they're the experts so they'll suggest the best fi shing spots and what fi sh it's best to target according to the season and tides, but their main aim is for you to have FUN. So if you've always wanted to catch a big shark or your kids get antsy after a while and you need to mix in some shelling or sightseeing with your fi shing trip, just let them know - they'll be happy to oblige. With multiple boats at their disposal they're able to accommodate groups of all sizes and all of the captains love what they do... They say "it's easy to have fun when your offi ce is fl oating" and they take great satisfaction from introducing kids to fi shing and helping people who haven't fi shed before or who are out of practice. As Cliff, a satisfi ed customer from Spartanburg, South Carolina recently put it... "Stepping onto your boat was like stepping into a neighbor's home - we instantly felt we were fi shing with an old buddy. Our fi shing trip was the best value on our entire vacation and I'm confi dent that it will be forever etched in the memories of our children. Thank you."