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Dolphin Found Dead off Venice after Swallowing Fishing Gear

Scores of dolphins have died along Florida's southwest coast due to the red tide bloom in the past year, federal researchers said.
Mote Marine Laboratory

A bottlenose dolphin was found dead Saturday in Venice Inlet and examined by Mote Marine Laboratory scientists, who report that it most likely died from swallowing fishing gear. This is the information provided by Mote Marine:

The female dolphin was 27 years old — relatively young — and was part of the year-round resident population of bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, according to the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, a collaboration between Chicago Zoological Society and Mote that has monitored and studied the local population for 42 years. This dolphin, known as FB93, had been observed since 1985. The dolphin was found floating in Venice Inlet, between Venice and Casey Key, by a local officer from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, who contacted Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program and brought the dolphin’s carcass to a boat ramp in Nokomis. Mote staff retrieved the carcass and brought it back to Mote’s Sarasota facility for examination. Results of the necropsy, or animal autopsy, suggest that FB93 most likely died from swallowing fishing gear. Fishing line was wrapped tightly and in a slip-knot around the dolphin’s “goosebeak” — the flexible tube connecting the blowhole to the lungs, likely leading to asphyxiation. The line was stretched taught and connected to a hook embedded in the dolphin’s “melon” (forehead). Mote scientists are awaiting lab results that may provide additional details about the animal’s condition and demise. However, its case history suggests it had been thriving before it died. “Except for the fishing line and hook, FB93 appeared to be in excellent condition,” said Dr. Randall Wells, Director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, the world’s longest-running study of a dolphin population. “She was one of the largest resident females of Sarasota Bay, at nearly 9 feet long and 471 pounds, and her stomach was full of fish.” Wells and his team had documented that FB93 was born to resident dolphin “Squiggy” and had given birth to six calves over her lifetime.  Squiggy, now 56 years old, the 20-year-old brother of FB93, and FB93’s 3- and 6-year-old calves still live in Sarasota Bay.  Her most recent calf, born in June, has not been found and is presumed dead following the loss of its mother. “This premature loss of a relatively young, productive female in her reproductive prime comes as a blow to the resiliency and sustainability of the Sarasota Bay dolphin community,” Wells said.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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