Dolphin’s Last Meal Helps Fill Knowledge Gap

Coastal Review –

What sounds disgusting to most people can be really interesting to scientists. But sometimes, even in the 14-year-old contents of a dolphin stomach, there’s a good backstory of endurance, chance encounters and fate that transcends arcane laboratory analysis.

It’s a fish story that began on May 15, 2001, when a 5-year-old male striped bass was caught in the New Jersey part of the Delaware River, probably between Trenton and Philadelphia, according to Josh Newhard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish biologist at the Maryland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.

As part of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s cooperative striped bass tagging program that began in 1985, he said, biologists inserted a tag in a small incision under the fish’s belly, with an external tag with the same contact information sticking out. The striper, measured at about 17 inches long, was then released to swim another day.

Nearly two years later, the fish was again caught, this time by a recreational fisherman in the Delaware Bay near Greenwich Township. The angler cut off the external tag and released the fish back in the bay on May 5, 2003.

Not long after, the striper’s luck ran out.  On Feb. 25, 2004, a washed-up dolphin – likely a bottlenose – was found dead on an Ocracoke Island beach.  Before the marine mammal met its doom, it had made a meal of that hapless striped bass.

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