In a tremendous, combined effort by NOAA Fisheries Service, Sea World Orlando, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Chicago Zoological Society, Mote Marine Lab, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the University of Florida, Seymour the dolphin has been saved.
According to Allison Garrett, Communications Specialist for NOAA Fisheries Service’s Southeast Regional Office/Science Center, Seymour, an eight year old bottlenose dolphin, “became entangled in fishing line in the Ten Thousand Islands area, a chain of islands off the coast of southwest Florida between Cape Romano and Marco Island. The fishing line was surrounding the dolphin’s tail and could have possibly impacted Seymour’s long-term survival.”
Marco Island Sea Excursions has been monitoring the local dolphin activity around Marco Island through their Dolphin Explorer vessel since 2006. The Dolphin Explorer, “provides an eco-tour that would involve the public in an effort to document the local bottlenose dolphin population.” This long-term study, known as The Ten Thousand Islands Dolphin Project, “tracks the abundance, distribution, movement, association patterns and behaviors of bottlenose dolphins of Southwest Florida.”
Through their rigorous tracking, Seymour, who was one of the first bottlenose dolphins accounted for in 2006, was identified to have an injury on his tail, or fluke, on December 10, 2006. NOAA was immediately notified of the injury.
Blair Mase of the National Marine Fisheries Services, the branch of NOAA which regulates marine mammal rescue, explains the procedure involved when an injured dolphin is reported. “We ask the original reporter to supply photographs of the injured animal that we then submit to an expert panel of veterinarians and biologists who have extensive experience with bottlenose dolphins. The panel will review all information and comment on whether or not the entanglement is life-threatening.” A recommendation on whether or not to intervene is then reported by the panel. “We want to be prudent in choosing a candidate that needs our help and in this case our expert panel has determined that (Seymour’s) injury is life-threatening.” Seymour was approved for a rescue intervention on December 21.
“Once the team determined that they did need to intervene and rescue Seymour it was time to coordinate a rescue effort. An extreme amount of planning and effort goes into rescuing a wild dolphin including putting a team together, tracking Seymour in order to locate him and working around weather conditions. A rescue team is typically made up of biologists, veterinarians and professional dolphin catchers.” adds Garrett.
A team of 26 professionals, using six boats, met at the Collier Boulevard Boat Ramp the morning of Friday, March 9, to find Seymour and assess the situation. “Once Seymour was spotted the team was able to move in and successfully capture the dolphin. After removing the fishing line from the dolphin’s tail and assessing his overall health, Seymour was re-released back into the wild,” continues Garrett.
Seymour also had blood drawn, x-rays and a monitoring device attached to his dorsal fin in order to make sure he continues to heal correctly.
To report any entangled, injured or stranded marine mammal please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s toll free hotline, 1-888-404-FWCC