Entangled Dolphin Mom With Fishing Gear Cutting Into Her Fin Spotted With Calf In Florida

A dolphin mom has been spotted entangled in fishing gear with her calf swimming beside her in a waterway in Clearwater, Florida. The fishing gear appears to be cutting into her fin, an image shared by Clearwater Marine Aquarium shows.

A rescue team working with the aquarium is monitoring the pair, with a Facebook post saying they have been seen daily for the last few weeks.

In order to free the entangled mother, the aquarium said it would need authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Only the mother is currently entangled with [a] line around the top of her dorsal fin," Clearwater Marine Aquarium said in a statement.

"All observations show normal swimming and foraging behaviors," Clearwater Marine Aquarium said in a statement. "The entanglement is not life-threatening at this time, so intervention has not been deemed necessary. If her status changes, our team will intervene when authorized."

It is illegal for members of the public to intervene with marine mammals. Attempting to disentangle the dolphin from the fishing gear would go against the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and could result in a fine of $500 and up to 60 days imprisonment.

"We've received multiple reports of the public attempting to remove the gear themselves," Clearwater Marine Aquarium said. "These attempts add additional stress to the animals and risk causing harm to both the animal and the public."

Fishing gear is a huge problem for marine life, with entanglements causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. The International Whaling Commission estimates that over 300,000 whales and dolphins die every year after getting entangled in fishing gear. Sometimes they ingest hooks and nets, while others get caught and drown, being unable to reach the surface for air.

Many Facebook users were unhappy with Clearwater Marine Aquarium's post, responding by saying a rescue team should intervene and free her from the fishing gear. Some said that from the image, the mother appears to be injured and that the line looks like it is going to cut her fin off.

However, the aquarium replied to concerned members of the public by highlighting the risks of attempting to disentangle a wild animal.

"We will continue to monitor the pair daily until NOAA authorizes further action or the entanglement is removed naturally," it said. "Disentangling marine animals is dangerous, requires coordination between multiple agencies and should only be performed by trained professionals.

"It is never good to see an entangled marine animal and it is a threat to their health. However, NOAA must take the whole situation into consideration before authorizing an intervention response, which requires much planning and coordination with other agencies. Our job right now is to follow NOAA's direction and monitor the animals, which will help inform the best decision."

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Stock photo of a dolphin and her calf. A mother dolphin entangled in fishing gear has been spotted in the waters around Clearwater, Florida. Getty Images