The SDRP is authorized to respond to marine mammal strandings, as a designee under Mote Marine Laboratory’s Letter of Authorization from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Because of our decades of experience and training, we investigate reports of strandings or animals in trouble, and help to rescue or recover them.
Entanglement in fishing gear is one of the biggest threats to Sarasota Bay dolphins. We performed one dolphin disentanglement since our last update. On March 1, 2016 we rescued Bill, a 10-yr-old male resident Sarasota Bay dolphin, from entanglement in a crab trap float line in the Gulf of Mexico near Venice. He was entangled overnight in one of the more than 8,000 traps deployed this time of year for stone crabs within the Sarasota dolphin home range. Bill had managed to get his tail wrapped in the float line of the crab trap, and was weighed down by the trap to the point where he was unable to move, and barely able to get his head out of the water to breathe (see photo at top).
We used a boathook to grab a bit of line floating next to Bill, pulled up line until we got to the entanglement, and then unwrapped the line from his peduncle and fluke. Bill was tail kicking during this time and appeared to have full motion of his fluke. There were some superficial lacerations where the line had wrapped, but they did not go very deep. Once fully disentangled, we released the dolphin and watched him swim away. Bill has been seen 12 times since his rescue, and appears to have fully recovered from his entanglement. His last few sightings have been with 9-year-old male “JoBob.” They are showing some signs of forming a male alliance, a bond that could last for the remainder of their lives.
Bill’s rescue occurred on the 6th anniversary of our rescue of his younger sister, Nellie, from tightly embedded plastic line behind her head when she was less than a year old. We are pleased to be able to say that previous entanglement or stranding cases Nellie, Scrappy, Ginger, Lizzie, Vidalia, Skipper, F286, and Parcel (rescued off Clearwater in October 2015) have all been seen in 2016, and all appear to be doing well. Skipper and Vidalia have both become independent from their mothers, and Skipper’s mom was recently seen with a new calf!
This article appeared on page 26 of the 2017 SDRP Annual Report, Nicks n Notches.