Jan. 27 (UPI) — Marine rescue groups came together in Florida to assist a baby dolphin spotted swimming with fishing line dangerously tangled around its body.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium said the dolphin, the calf of a mother known to researchers as Matilda, was first seen swimming with the fishing line wrapped around its body near Clearwater Beach in December.
CMA and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission initially asked the public not to attempt to intervene and kept tabs on the dolphin in the hopes that the line would come loose on its own.
Rescuers attempted to remove the line using a long-handled cutting tool, but the dolphin evaded the attempt and researchers continued to monitor its condition.
The aquarium staff determined in January that the entanglement had become more severe, with the line wrapped around the marine mammal’s peduncle — the spot where the dolphin’s tail connects to its body.
The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, which led the renewed rescue effort, said the line had also nearly severed the dolphin’s dorsal fin.
The rescue program led a rescue effort that involved personnel from the the aquarium, the fish and wildlife commission, SeaWorld, Mote Marine Laboratory and the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southeast Regional Office.
“While we knew such an operation involved many risks to both the dolphin and the humans, the participants agreed that the calf faced a near-certain and very nasty death if the gear was not removed,” dolphin research program director Randy Wells wrote in a news release.
The team said the fishing line was removed in a five-minute procedure and the calf, a female, was given antibiotics before being released. Wells said researchers will continue to monitor her.
“We remain concerned about this dolphin, however. Given the highly disfigured shape of her dorsal fin, she’s at a high risk of continuing to catch line on it, and we may have to intervene again,” he wrote.