Biological Opinion on the Issuance of Permit No. 20455 to Randall Wells for Research on Bottlenose and Atlantic Spotted Dolphins
This biological opinion is NOAA Fisheries' opinion on the effects of the permit No. 20455 for bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphin research on sea turtle species, smalltooth sawfish, and Gulf sturgeon in a specific action area.
This biological opinion is based on information provided in the applicant’s permit application (NMFS 2016d), annual reports from Dr. Wells’ previous permits (NMFS 2011b; NMFS 2016e), correspondence and discussions with the Permits Division and the applicant, previous biological opinions on similar research activities (NMFS 2016a; NMFS 2017b; NMFS 2017c), and the best scientific and commercial data available from the literature.
Dr. Wells has been conducting research on dolphins since the 1970s through the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. His research focuses specifically on dolphins (primarily bottlenose dolphins but most recently, Atlantic spotted dolphins). A consultation on a research permit for NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program made it apparent that incidental take of ESA-listed turtles and fish may result from seine net captures of dolphins, which Dr. Wells has done and proposes to do under the renewal of Permit No. 20455 being considered. In processing Dr. Wells' application for Permit No. 20455, the Permits Division reconsidered possible effects to ESA-listed turtles and fish from Dr. Wells' research.