Entangled Dolphin Calf Rescued in Florida

For two months, rescue teams have been monitoring the status of an entangled dolphin calf in Clearwater, Florida. The calf and its mother, Matilda, were first spotted on December 4th, 2021 by Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMA). The team along with Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) kept track of the pair and planned a rescue. Their plan to use long-handed cutting tools did not pan out, as the dolphin was able to evade the rescue.

In January, as the rescue teams continued to monitor the situation of the entangled dolphin calf, they realized it was time to act fast. The calf was unable to remove the fishing line but instead was even more entangled, compromising its swimming and peduncle.

On January 13th, there was a virtual meeting with various biologists and veterinarians, to help come with a solution to save the calf. They all came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to capture the entangled dolphin. On January 18th, the different rescue teams came together to help trap the pair and remove the rope. At 10am, CMA team spotted the mother and her calf. By 10:55am the team of rescuers had trapped the pair and within minutes were able to free the calf. Lead veterinarian Mike Walsh and his team removed the rope and gave the calf a shot of antibiotics. By 10:58am the mother and her freed calf were off on their merry way.

Thanks to CMA, Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, Sea World, FWC, Mote Marine Laboratory and the NMFS Southeast Regional Office, this mission was a success. While the female calf was rescued, she’s still at risk at being entangled again. The fishing line disfigured her dorsal fin, which can make her an easy target for more fishing line.

How to Prevent Dolphin Entanglements

Our ocean friends get entangled daily, due to fishing line. Some are able to free themselves, others need rescuing, but most are not as lucky. Over 300,000 cetaceans are caught in fishing nets every year. Is there anything we can do to change this? Below are some tips that can help prevent dolphins from getting entangled in fishing line.

  • Always reel in your fishing line when you see dolphins near your vessel
  • Stay at least 50 feet away from the dolphin
  • Do not feed the dolphin, no matter how cute they are!
  • Inspect your gear regularly to make sure it won’t easily break off
  • Avoid using braided fishing line
  • Use circle and corrodible hooks instead
  • Do not throw away your trash!

Our ocean is vast but it’s full of human trash. We continue to throw away harmful waste into our ocean and use fishing lines and traps that cause harm to wildlife. If we continue to do this, the future of our oceanic life is sure to suffer.

dolphin calf rescue
Image by Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

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