On October 19, 2012, a fresh dead bottlenose dolphin was reported floating near Bogue Sound at Emerald Isle. NC Maritime Museum volunteers David and Bobbi Brown assisted Dr. Victoria Thayer from the NC Division of Marine Fisheries and NC Maritime Museum Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster in retrieving the carcass which was frozen for later analysis. The carcass (#KAR030) was used as a valuable dolphin research and training tool for volunteers and students. A careful exam and subsequent necropsy revealed fresh monofilament line scars from a gill net on all appendages of the otherwise healthy juvenile male bottlenose dolphin. The marine mammal stranding network reminds you to please make use of the fishing line recycle bins located along the coast.
Posts Tagged ‘stranding’
UPDATED: See update at bottom of page
Entangled Dolphin Calf Dies During Rescue Attempt
by Keith Rittmaster,
Natural Science Curator
NC Maritime Museum
Jan. 13, 2005
On Tuesday, January 11th. off our NC Maritime Museum docks in Gallants Channel we saw a familiar dolphin named “Yang” (#1185). She has a very distinct dorsal fin and we have had her in our photo-ID catalog since 1992. We know she is a female because we have seen her before with a young calf. In fact, in October ´04 we photographed her with a young calf, one that was probably born around May, ´04. On Tuesday she was also with her young calf but this time her calf appeared to be entangled in fishing line, struggling at the surface for every breath, and unable to extend its body to swim properly. It was just Yang and her calf. No other dolphins were nearby.
We contacted some of our local colleagues (Vicky Thayer at Duke, Aleta Hohn and Gretchen Lovewell at NOAA/NMFS, and others) who came out on a boat with us to have a look and help evaluate the condition of the calf. Since we were observing what appeared to be a life-threatening human-induced injury, we began to pull together a group of local professional colleagues and volunteers to attempt a rescue coordinated and led by Aleta. On the morning of January 13th. 20+ people from 6 local institutions on very short notice in 6 boats set out with the goal of trying to safely locate, capture, disentangle, and release the calf. Within an hour of leaving the dock in light rain, we found (thanks to Janet Frye on her boat “Daydream”) Yang and her calf. The tide was high but they were near a sandbar so Blake Price, Dave Skinner, and Kevin Brown of the NC Dept. of Marine Fisheries deployed a large-mesh seine net and captured Yang and her calf on the first attempt. While restraining the 2 dolphins next to each other, we soon realized that the calf was horribly injured as a result of entanglement in a jumble of monofilament fishing line stretching from his mouth to his tail. Craig Harms, the attendant veterinarian from NCSU/CMAST, was considering euthanasia when the baby died in our arms in front of his mother, “Yang”. We released the mother.
The necropsy revealed that the fishing line had cut both sides of the mouth down into the bones (mandibles) and cut deeply near the tail almost to the spine. The outcome, although disappointing because we were unable to save the calf, left us with the rewarding feeling that we did the best we could have and forged relationships that are likely to be helpful in the future. It will be interesting to see if/when Yang joins up with other dolphins and gives birth again. If we had gotten to the baby sooner perhaps we could have saved him. We’re all feeling pretty deflated right now. We hope that those who read this will help educate others about the negative impacts of litter, particularly of discarded monofilament fishing line, on marine wildlife. Thanks for everyone’s support and help, especially the following people who assisted with the preparation and rescue attempt:
|Aleta Hohn||David Brown||Nate Bacheler|
|Allen Brooks||Emma Jugovich||Patti Haase|
|Annie Gorgone||Gretchen Lovewell||Paul Rudershausen|
|April Goodman||Janet Frye||Rachel LoPiccolo|
|Ari Friedlander||John Russell||Tom Ninke|
|Blake Price||Kevin Brown||Vicky Thayer|
|Craig Harms||Keith Rittmaster|
|Dave Skinner||Nan Bowles|
For more information please visit capelookoutstudies.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click photo for large uncompressed version of photo.
|Yang’s (#1185) Sighting History|
|The entries under the month column headings indicate the day and year for which we have photos of “Yang” (ie., 29-96 under January means January 29, 1996), and general location (E=estuary, OC=ocean).|
UPDATE: We’ve decided to name Yang’s calf “Yaholo” which is Seminole for “One who yells”. We’ve added a slide show from the pictures of Yang and Yaholo to the fishing line (monofilament) recycling project page. That page is dedicated to Yaholo – we hope that he will continue to “yell” through this page so that everyone learns how monofilament recycling can help protect wild dolphins.
Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)
by Martha Crooker, April 20, 2002
On Saturday, April 20, the Cape Lookout Photographic Expedition sponsored by the North Carolina Maritime Museum, was interrupted by a rare and unfortunate event.Shortly before 5pm, Keith Rittmaster, Natural Science Curator and Field Studies Program Director, and museum volunteer Hugh Wilde, were preparing to make a boat run to Harker’s Island to pick up developed film, when Wilde spotted something splashing off the docks in Cape Lookout Bight.
On close investigation, Keith and Hugh discovered that an endangered leatherback sea turtle had become entrapped in a sink gill net. The struggling turtle was unable to surface for air. Although sea turtles are often submerged for long periods of time, this turtle appeared to be under a great deal of stress.
The two men were able to free the turtle just enough to allow it to surface and to breath. Keith assessed the situation and knew they needed more help if the rescue attempt would be successful.
A different boat was obtained, several people from the photographic expedition were summoned to assist, other visitors at the cape stood by to help, and still others began to document the rescue attempt with cameras. From the boat, Keith and crew were able to cut the net and guide the entangled turtle to shore. Indeed, the turtle headed to shore on his own accord, pulling the boat to shallower water.
Leatherback sea turtles are listed on the Federal Endangered Species List, and thus protected by the Endangered Species Act. Leatherbacks are the largest species of sea turtles, and are most often found in tropical waters. In the spring, Keith often sees leatherbacks first, before he sees loggerhead turtles, the species he most frequently encounters.
For the observers on shore, it appeared that every move counted in freeing the turtle from the net. Keith spoke to the crowd as he worked, sharing facts about the leatherback species. He addressed issues that relate to conflicts between commercial fishing and bycatch. He expressed empathy for the fisherman whose net he damaged while freeing the turtle. One of the volunteers assisting offered to ‘pass the hat’ to collect money to repair the net. Keith acknowledged this generous offer and said he would attempt to contact the owner.
Keith took the opportunity to take measurements of the turtle while museum volunteer Allen Brooks recorded the data. This particular turtle, a male, was nearly six feet long and it’s age estimated to be between ten and twenty years old
Rittmaster, who holds a permit to tag sea turtles, inserted an imbedded, lifelong tag on the turtle, as well as two external tags. These tags are crucial for research and future marine conservation measures.
The turtle appeared unharmed by the ordeal in the gill net, and after measurements were taken and information recorded, the turtle was guided back to open water. Everyone stepped aside to watch the turtle plod from the shore, to deeper water, then disappear below the surface.
Relief and joy spread among the rescuers, the photographers, and the bystanders. After having taken part in such a successful event in marine conservation, we all knew we had witnessed a rare and spectacular rescue. It was obvious to all who watched the rescue that Keith responded in the only appropriate manner. Any passerby would have attempted to free the turtle. Had not Keith freed the turtle, the owner of the net would have found a carcass of a rare sea turtle to deal with, and in the extracting process, would likely have damaged the net. One less sea turtle, why does that matter?
Leatherback sea turtles feed on jellyfish. Their predators are killer whales and sharks (and man). Protecting endangered sea turtles does matter because they are vital to the marine food web and healthy ecosystems. This rare leatherback sea turtle was worthy of being set free.
Rescue boat skippered by John Atkins approaches leatherback sea turtle struggling in net.
Netted leatherback sea turtle struggling to surface for air by rescue boat.
Leatherback sea turtle ashore with net still attached
Using large calipers to measure straight carapace length (137cm) and width (75cm). Note remora that stayed attached throughout rescue.
Close-up of turtle’s head. The pink spots on top can be used in Photo-ID. CLSP has started a leatherback catalog.
Rescued leatherback sea turtle returns to sea – YEAH!!