Entanglement fears for local dolphin

March 22, 2013

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Researchers from the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit (MUCRU) are urging the public to think of dolphin safety after a recent dolphin entanglement.

Popular local dolphin Fingers was seen in Cockburn Sound with a strand of fishing line wrapped around his right tail fluke.

Dr Hugh Finn said this was of grave concern.

“Dolphins can’t remove entangled fishing line themselves, so gradually the line cuts deeper into the tissue, which can lead to amputation of the fin or fluke or infection and septicaemia,” Dr Finn said.

“Alternately, the wound and any associated tangles of line may become so debilitating that they are no longer able to feed or keep away from sharks.”

Dr Finn said that the chances of freeing Fingers were low, as catching and disentangling a free-ranging dolphin was incredibly difficult.

He encouraged people to report any sightings of Fingers to the Wildcare Helpline run by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) at 9474 9055 and by email to Hugh Finn (h.finn@murdoch.edu.au).

He said Fingers’ dorsal fin was distinctive (see photo).

“Fingers may approach boats to beg for food, but we really want to discourage people from feeding any dolphins. Feeding dolphins puts them at great risk of propeller strike and entanglement and greatly alters their natural behaviour,” he said.

“The best things we can do for dolphins are to let them be and to use biodegradable fishing line. Normal nylon fishing line takes more than 500 years to breakdown, whereas biodegradable line breaks down within a span of a few months to years.”

Nine dolphins were documented with entanglement injuries in Cockburn Sound between 1996 and 2003; four entanglements have been recorded in the Swan River since 2008.

Feeding dolphins without a licence is illegal in Western Australia and subject to up to a $10,000 fine.

For an update on this story, go here.

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