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Mote Scientists: Dolphin killed by fishing gear in Venice inlet

5:30 PM, Dec 12, 2012   |    comments
Sarasota Bay dolphin FB93, found dead on Dec. 8, was examined by Mote Marine Laboratory scientists, who reported that it most likely died from swallowing fishing gear. Above, FB93 has fishing line trailing from its mouth to a hook embedded in its "melon," or forehead. Photo taken under authority of Mote's stranding agreement with NMFS. (Photo credit: Mote Marine Laboratory)
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Venice, Florida -- Mote Marine scientists say a local bottlenose dolphin that was found dead Dec. 8 in a Venice inlet most likely died from swallowing fishing gear.

The dolphin was reportedly found floating between Venice and Casey Key by a local officer from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. The dolphin's carcass was then brought to a boat ramp in Nokomis and was transferred to Mote's facility for examination.

After an examination, scientists say fishing line wrapped tightly and in a slip-knot around the dolphin's "goosebeak" -- the flexible tube connecting the blowhole to the lungs -- was what likely lead to asphyxiation. Scientists are still waiting on lab results that may provide additional details about her condition and death.

"Except for the fishing line and hook, the dolphin [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, in a release. "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."

The female dolphin, known to researchers as FB93, was 27 years old when she died -- which scientists say is relatively young -- and was part of the year-round resident population of bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, according to the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. She had been observed since 1985.

Wells and his team said they 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.

You can learn how to view dolphins safely in the wild. Download dolphin-friendly viewing and fishing tips at www.mote.org/dolphinfriendly.

Mote Marine Laboratory

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