Dolphin Tags

Full Title: Assessment of movement patterns and critical habitat for coastal and continental shelf small cetaceans in the Gulf of Mexico using newly developed remote satellite tagging techniques.

Lead Investigator (Institution): Brian Balmer (National Marine Mammal Foundation)

Co-Investigators (Institution):†Andrew Westgate (University of North Carolina Wilmington),†Keith Mullin (NOAA),†Teri Rowles (NOAA),†Wayne McFee (NOAA), and†Cynthia Smith (National Marine Mammal Foundation)

Technical Monitors: Laura Engleby ( and Jenny Litz (

Award Amount: $407,128

Award Period: June 1, 2017 – May 31, 2020

Summary: In order to conserve and restore small cetacean populations, including dolphins, it is important to know how different species are moving between habitats. It can be difficult to gather this information, but one way is by attaching a tag to the animal that can relay information about the animalís location and movement using satellites back to researchers. This project will develop a new and innovative approach for attaching satellite tags to small cetaceans without having to capture them. Being able to remotely attach satellite tags to dolphins will save the animals and the researchers the risks that come with capturing, restraining, and handling of the animals required to attach the current generation of satellite tags. The researchers will deploy their newly developed tags on free-swimming dolphins in the coastal and continental shelf waters further offshore in the Gulf of Mexico to collect information on the movement, behavior, and habitat use of Atlantic spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. The information they collect will show how these species move between and use different habitats which is critical information for developing effective management and restoration strategies.