SARASOTA, Fla. — Right now, researchers are warning people heading out on the water this Labor Day weekend to watch out for dolphins.
Dolphin researchers say in a two week period in August, three dolphins were killed due to human activity in Sarasota Bay.
A 31-year-old male dolphin named Bark died from a fishing hook in his throat. A four-month-old dolphin calf was fatally injured from getting entangled in a fishing line. And a 22-year-old female named Eve died from a boat strike.
The Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program director Randy Wells says in the 50 years the program has been studying dolphins in the Sarasota Bay, they’ve never had three dolphins die from human activity in just two weeks.
"We do our best to do outreach to try and minimize human interactions. They occur, but they’ve never occurred at this rate. To have three in a two week period is just unheard of," said Wells.
Wells says to better protect dolphins, people should follow these best practices:
- Don’t feed wild dolphins.
- Reel in your fishing line if dolphins appear.
- Change locations if dolphins show interest in bait or catch.
- Release catch quietly away from dolphins when and where it is possible to do so without violating any state or federal fishing regulations.
- Check gear and terminal tackle to make sure it won’t break off easily and, if your line does break, be sure to collect anything left behind in mangroves or on docks.
- Use circle and corrodible hooks and avoid braided fishing line
- Stay at least 50 yards away.
- Stash your trash in a lidded container on your boat until you can get to shore and dispose of it safely in a place where it will not blow back into the water.
If you're boating in Sarasota or Manatee counties and see an injured or dead dolphin, Wells says to report it immediately to Mote's SIP at 941-988-0212 to give trained responders the best chance of rescuing or recovering the animal.
If you are outside of those counties, call Florida's wildlife hotline: 888-404-3922 (FWCC).