MARINELAND, FLA. (November 21, 2014) – A bottlenose dolphin calf was rescued in the northern part of the Indian River Lagoon near Titusville, Fla. Thursday after the marine mammal became entangled in fishing gear. The rescue was a collaborative effort led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and involved teams from Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station (GA-CFS), SeaWorld Orlando (SWO), Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), NOAA’s National Oceanic Service (NOS), the University of Florida (UF), Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (FAU-HBOI), and Dr. Randy Wells from the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS).
In early November, during a routine photo identification survey in Mosquito Lagoon, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute researchers spotted a dolphin with what was presumed to be fishing line deeply embedded in its lower jaw. A week later, an additional dolphin, this time a calf, was spotted in the same area with fishing gear cutting into its dorsal fin. NOAA Fisheries was immediately notified and with the help of researchers, closely monitored the dolphins. Veterinarians unanimously agreed that the entanglements were life threatening and immediately planned for a response effort as soon as weather permitted.
On Nov. 20, the dolphin calf was located with its mother and was successfully disentangled from fishing line that was cutting into the animal’s dorsal fin. Shortly thereafter, the larger dolphin was located. After examination by veterinarians the animal appeared to be in good health and had shed the presumed fishing line prior to the intervention, despite being left with obvious deformations of the skin on the lower jaw.
GA-CFS, SWO, HSWR, FWC, NOAA, NOS, UF, and FAU-HBOI are all active members of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network and work together to monitor the overall health of the dolphin populations along the east coast in north and central Florida.
“Multi-agency efforts are important for several reasons. Dolphins and other marine animals are dependent on these partnerships and joint rescue efforts,” said Bill Hughes, curator of mammals at SeaWorld. “It is because we work together so closely that we are able to learn about disentanglements, respond in a timely manner, and be successful.”
“Our collaboration is not only important for rescue efforts, but also to educate the community about how trash and debris in water can lead to an entanglement or accidental ingestion. Most people are unaware of these hazards to marine life which is why we perform outreach locally which aims to reduce these risks in the first place,” said George Biedenbach, director of conservation programs at GA-CFS.
Entanglements in trash and debris in the water is a growing problem for all marine animals. Most dolphin entanglements involve animals that frequent the waters that are also utilized for recreational fishing by people, including fishing piers. Some dolphins in these parts of Florida are known to spend their entire lives in a relatively small area, which they call home where they forage for their food and calves are known to play with many things in their environment. This means that the organizations that collaborate in disentanglements have another job, which is to increase public awareness of the issue.
Groups like GA-CFS and Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute are constantly working to seek solutions and participate in outreach efforts to educate the public on what steps they can take to reduce entanglement occurrences. This includes encouraging fisherman to not cut and discard their fishing lines, but instead place it in designated receptacles for trash and recycling along piers and beach access.
So far in 2014, GA-CFS and SeaWorld have responded to over 130 cases collectively in Florida.
If you come upon an injured or stranded marine animal, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922). From a cellphone, call *FWC or #FWC, or send a text to TIP@MYFWC.com.
All actions and images obtained under authorization through NOAA Fisheries.
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ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM CONSERVATION FIELD STATION
Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station (GA-CFS) is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to research and rescue of dolphins and small whales in Northeast Florida. GA-CFS was founded in April of 2008 focusing on research and conservation for the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. The facility is equipped to conduct field studies, respond to marine mammal stranding events, and transport small whales or dolphins in need to neighboring rehabilitation facilities. The vision of GA-CFS is to increase public awareness and contribute to scientific study through conservation. GA-CFS also assists other Stranding Network members within the Southeast Region (SER). For additional information, visit www.dolphinfieldstation.org.
ABOUT SEAWORLD ORLANDO
Working in partnership with state, local, federal agencies and members of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, SeaWorld Orlando’s rescue teams are on call 24/7 assisting animals that are orphaned, ill, injured or in need of expert care. The goal of each rescue is to successfully rehabilitate the animal – birds, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and whales - for return to the wild. The small percentage of animals whose injuries are too debilitating to permit release are given lifelong care. Since the rescue program began at SeaWorld San Diego in 1964, more than 24,000 animals have been rescued. This year alone, SeaWorld Orlando’s team has rescued eight manatees, four dolphins, 39 sea turtles and 395 birds. For more information, visit www.SeaWorldCares.com.