A yearling bottlenose dolphin whose survival was threatened by entanglement in fishing line was freed by a joint SDRP and Mote Marine Laboratory team.
For three months, the calf, known as C797 (the 7th documented calf of female FB79), had fishing line wrapped through its mouth and around its dorsal fin and body.
From the time of the first photos of the entanglement in mid-March, until mid-June, the condition of the calf deteriorated. It obviously lost weight, and the fishing line cut deeply into its dorsal fin and mouth.
C797 moved noticeably slower, but remained capable of repeated 2 minute dives.
During the three months, rescue teams tried unsuccessfully for 3 ½ days to catch the calf with a net in order to remove the line.
The teams included 30-80 SDRP and Mote staff each day, and involved veterinarians and trained volunteers on 5-10 boats.
C797 tended to remain in deep water, to associate with large numbers of other dolphins, and seemed to have an uncanny ability to evade the rescuers.
Numerous other attempts to remove the line with long-handled cutting tools were also unsuccessful. C797 was able to remain frustratingly just beyond the tip of our 16 ft line-cutting pole.
Then on the afternoon of June 17, 2011, a rescue team was able to successfully snare the line with a long pole. They pulled C797 alongside the boat, and removed all of the detectable line and fishing gear from the calf’s body and mouth.
Within about 3-4 minutes, C797 was cleared of gear and released. It was last seen swimming away alongside its mother.
Whether C797 can recover from the extreme weight loss and wounds remains to be seen, but at least it is no longer burdened by the fishing gear.
Back at the lab, we examined the gear removed from C797.
We identified numerous different fishing lines, several lures, multiple single and treble hooks, and lead weights
These will be examined in detail by the National Marine Fisheries Service gear lab.
So how is it that a young dolphin becomes entangled like this?
Unfortunately, the calf’s mother, FB79, has a tendency to spend time around recreational fishing boats. While she hasn’t yet become entangled, her calf obviously was, and only time will tell if C797 survived the experience.
Many people helped with the efforts to come to the aid of C797 over the three month period of the entanglement – we would like to thank each and every one of them for their dedication and hard work.
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