10,000 Island Dolphin Project
We recently observed Seymour, a sub-adult member of the dolphin population centered around Big Marco Pass, with monofilament fishing line wrapped tightly around the base of its peduncle near the flukes. The line itself is barely visible but the entire area has a large growth of scar tissue. It looks like the entanglement occurred some time ago and, while most of the trailing line broke off, the remainder continues to cut deeply into the animal.
During a field survey aboard the Dolphin Explorer on November 26 naturalist James Livaccari observed Seymour repeatedly slapping its tail on the surface of the water. He was able to get good pictures of the injured area.
More recently we have observed Seymour socializing with other dolphins and s/he has not appeared to be in obvious distress, but, as these photos attest, the monofilament entanglement continues to be a problematic, potentially life threatening situation.
Seymour was one of the first dolphins we observed when we began conducting surveys in 2006. At the time s/he was a young calf. Since then we have logged over 200 sightings of this dolphin. In 2007 Seymour's mother, Halfway gave birth to a new calf named Simon and at that time Seymour began to navigate life on his own as a sub-adult. In 2010 Halfway, who spends a lot of time along the sea wall at the Isles of Capri, gave birth to a third calf, Kaya. Based on this history we estimate that Seymour is about eight years old.
The question in our minds is what can be done to help this dolphin? There are options. Movie goers will immediately think of Winter from 'A Dolphin Tale', who faced with a similar predicament, was rescued and, after surgery to remove the fluke, was fitted with a prosthesis.
A happier precedent, to my mind, would be the recent rescue of a dolphin calf with a life threatening entanglement by the folks at the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. In this case Dr. Randall Wells, director of the SSDRP, lead a team of 35 individuals in six boats. They were able to capture the calf, remove the line, inject the little guy with a dose of antibiotics and release the animal all in 17 minutes, an extraordinary feat.
This was a best case scenario; Seymour would almost certainly require surgery and rehabilitation at the Mote Marine Dolphin and Whale Hospital.
Capturing, treating and releasing a wild dolphin is obviously not an easy undertaking. Whether something like this can be attempted to help Seymour remains to be seen. We have reported the situation to the folks at Sarasota Dolphin Research Program and the Fish and Wildlife Commission and will keep you posted on developments.
And we'll keep a close eye on Seymour as well.