Letters to the Editor

Dolphins, finfish could use help

The Oct. 25 article “Latest report says menhaden thriving in the Gulf” reports a scientist’s research that I have heard before.

He can never tell you how much menhaden that marine mammals and finfish need, only what humans with nets and boats and planes can catch.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment’s Final Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan states: “The Barataria Bay and Mississippi Sound bottlenose dolphin stocks were two of the most severely injured populations, with a 51 percent and 62 percent maximum reduction in their population sizes, respectively” (p. 4-636-7). “The increased reproductive failure rates in pregnant females exposed to DWH (Deepwater Horizon) oil will have a negative impact on each population stock” (p. 4-624).

Different species of dolphins live all over the world. They are opportunistic feeders and eat the fish and other animals sharing their homes.

“Dolphins can eat up to 20 pounds of Atlantic menhaden a day,” say the authors of “Wild New Jersey” (Rutgers, 2011).

Starting in December 2004, before Katrina, Lance J. Miller, then at the University of Southern Mississippi, began studying the dolphins in the Mississippi Sound. He published a paper in 2010 (with several co-authors, including Moby Solangi) that was covered by Scientific American in “What Do Hurricanes Mean for Dolphins?”

Two years after Katrina, there was a massive increase in dolphin calves. Those two years had been devastating for the Gulf fishing industry and functioned, according to Miller, “similar to the effects of creating a marine reserve.”

Dolphins and the finfish on which Mississippi is debating catch limits do eat menhaden.

Julia O’Neal

Ocean Springs