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Fishing Line Takes Tragic Toll on Marine Life

HARBOR BRANCH – FAU RESEARCHERS RESCUE DOLPHIN CALF in the INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

Entanglement from monofilament fishing line takes a tragic toll on all marine life.

hboi calf rescue

21 January 2011, NOAA/NMFS assigned Capture Supervisor Steve McCulloch, Program Manager of Marine Mammal Research at Harbor Branch Oceanographic at FAU (HBOI) assembled and led multi-agency Intervention Team to locate and successfully disentangle a dolphin calf in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). The mother dolphin (MOMW) has been known to McCulloch and HBOI researchers since 1996, when he helped initiate photo-identification surveys in the IRL. (MONO) is her fourth calf.

hboi calf intervention 2“The mom/calf pair have an expansive 30-mile home range within the IRL so we relied on a decade of sighting history data to narrow down the primary search area” explains McCulloch. Still, it took the thirty-member team and six boats, two days to locate the dolphin pair. Once both dolphins were in shallow water and alone, McCulloch initiated the ‘take’, first encircling the dolphins in a 400 yard capture net, and deploying five ‘chase boats’ so that team members could respond immediately to secure and support the calf, while the mom was safely released and waited anxiously nearby.  Both dolphins could be heard whistling to one another during the entire process.

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NMFS assigned ‘capture-lead’, McCulloch helps remove fishing gear, consisting of heavy monofilament line and weights, which was documented by HBOI and will be sent to NMFS laboratories in Pascagoula, MS for further analysis

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HBOI/MMRC staff veterinarian Dr. Juli Goldstein and Dolphins Plus/MMC veterinarian Dr. Bob Stevens worked together to quickly evaluate, treat, tag and release the animal. Due to the extent and nature of injuries, minimal biological sampling was undertaken. Efforts were focused on the immediate need to remove all the fishing gear, which consisted of heavy monofilament line and weights. Once the primary objective was accomplished every effort was made to safely return the calf to her waiting mom as quickly as possible.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic Universities Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program wish to gratefully acknowledge the following organizations.

Dolphins Plus / Marine Mammal Conservancy
Georgia Aquarium Dolphin Conservation Field Station
Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute
National Marine Fisheries Service
Ocean Embassy / Wildlife International Network

Also participating, marine mammal specialists Captain Larry Fulford, Captain Jim Moyer, EMT Jim McCann, Richard Baptiste, Brandon Paquin and Kevin Shoemaker.

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Dolphin Rescue-Intervention team members representing six organizations that specialize in marine mammal care, rehabilitation and protection

Dolphin populations and marine species worldwide are faced with increasing threats due to human interactions, disease and a variety of environmental stressors. Remember to make sure to properly dispose of all your monofilament fishing gear and teach others to do the same.

If you see any marine species in distress, please immediately notify the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC.

This intervention effort and many other important research and conservation initiatives receive essential funding from Florida’s Protect Wild Dolphins specialty license plate, which are available at your local tax collectors office http://www.protectwilddolphins.org/BUY.HTML

For more information on marine mammal health and stranding response efforts please visit the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources / National Marine Fisheries Service website at:
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/education/protectdolphins.htm