Entanglement in fishing gear is a significant conservation concern for marine species in the state of Florida and
worldwide. The Florida Entanglement Working Group (FEWG) was formed in 2003 to focus on these issues in Florida state waters and includes several state (FWC), federal (NOAA), and non-profit organizations as contributing members (the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program has been a contributing member since 2005). This group has organized and promoted fishing line recycling programs (www.fishinglinerecycling.org) and marine debris cleanups. The FEWG realized a need to provide crucial data to wildlife and habitat managers from around the state as to the status of entanglement problems involving dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles. In 2009 a subgroup of the FEWG formed the Multi Species Analysis working group with a goal to evaluate stranding data and identify entanglement problem areas (or “Hotspots”) around the state.
Stranding data sets for bottlenose dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles in Florida coastal waters were analyzed for evidence of gear-on entanglement and/or ingestion. Entanglements from both live and dead stranded animals were classified into categories of: hook and line (HL), trap/pot (TP), and other (OT) which includes nets, ropes, and other fishery-related gear. During 1997-2009, 132 dolphins (32 live and 100 dead) stranded with gear-on entanglement and/or ingestion (97 HL, 27 TP, 4 OT, 4 multiple gear, Figure 1). During that same time period, 190 live and 243 dead manatees stranded or were rescued with gear-on entanglement and/or ingestion (285 HL, 80 TP, 59 OT, 9 multiple gear). A total of 635 live and 582 dead sea turtles stranded or were rescued with gear-on entanglement and/or ingestion
between 1997 and 2008 (878 HL, 174 TP, 137 OT, 27 multiple gear). While entanglement strandings occurred statewide, hotspots were observed along Florida’s central and southwest and central east coasts, and in the Florida Keys. Results support the need for an increase in statewide outreach initiatives, with targeted actions in “hotspot” areas. Outreach includes educating anglers about safe angling practices including monofilament fishing line recycling and responsible fishing near marine wildlife. Actions include the removal of entangling marine debris such as derelict crab traps and fishing line, especially in high risk entangling areas such as piers and reefs. The cumulative effects of fishing gear debris and entanglements on the recovery and persistence of local marine mammal and sea turtles populations are currently unknown. Management recommendations include working with fishing communities to develop solutions that will be mutually beneficial to fishers, wildlife and habitat.