Dolphin Detectives

Dive into MERR’s Annual Dolphin Count!

The Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute, Inc. (MERR) will once again hold its Annual Dolphin Count on Saturday, July 20, 2024, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. This annual event allows the public to help gather critical information and enjoy time staring blissfully out to sea. Volunteers will be stationed at pre-designated observation points from Fenwick Island to Woodland Beach.

And while the event remains a fun, interactive community event, it’s important to understand the value of gathering such data on our coastal neighbors.

Ecosystem Health Indicators

Dolphins can be key indicators of a marine ecosystem’s health. Changes in their populations can provide insight into the broader health of the marine environment (such as water quality, prey availability, and the presence of pollutants).

Biodiversity Conservation

Dolphins are integral to marine biodiversity. Monitoring their numbers helps ensure their protection and the protection of the ecosystem as a whole.

Threat Assessment

Counting dolphins helps identify population trends, which can indicate threats such as pollution, fishing bycatch, habitat destruction, and climate change. This information is critical for implementing effective conservation strategies and policies.

Scientific Research

Counts provide data for scientific research on marine biology, behavior, and ecology. This research can lead to a deeper understanding of dolphin social structures, migration patterns, and interactions with other marine species.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Accurate dolphin counts are crucial to ensure compliance with these regulations and to assess the effectiveness of conservation measures aimed at protecting marine mammals through laws and international agreements.

Public Awareness and Education

Data compiled by volunteers during the count can raise awareness about the state of marine environments, helping beach communities understand the relationship and impact of land-based behaviors on the marine ecosystem.

Tourism and Economic Value

Dolphins are a charismatic welcoming committee to those who visit our beaches in Delaware. Sustainable management of our local populations will help them call this coast their home and welcome future generations.

“The Dolphin Count is important for multiple reasons,” said MERR executive director Suzanne Thurman. “After collecting data locally, we compare it with past numbers and numbers of other stranding organizations in the Northeast region who monitor bottlenose dolphins to ensure stability in their population.”

Volunteers will collect and analyze data on the local dolphin population on coastal beaches and even a few inland locations. “Volunteers enable us to provide coverage that we normally wouldn’t have the power to do,” Thurman said. “They are integral in making this a success.”

For more information, or to volunteer for the count, contact the MERR Institute at (302) 864-0304 or e-mail  

MERR Annual Dolphin Count

Saturday, July 20, 2024, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Spanning coastal beaches from Fenwick Island to Woodland Beach. To volunteer for the count, contact the MERR Institute:
(302) 864-0304   |   

If you encounter a stranded marine mammal or sea turtle, contact MERR Institute at (302) 864.0304 or email MERR is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the conservation of marine mammals and sea turtles and their habitat. MERR provides rescue and response for stranded marine animals that occur throughout the State of Delaware. 

Rob Rector has served as naturalist and board member for 20 years, is a certified Protected Species Observer, and leads weekly dolphin observation tours that use citizen science to gather information on our local Bottlenose Dolphin populations.

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