SARASOTA -- Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium said they're hoping the death of a dolphin in the area due to fishing equipment will serve as a reminder for locals to protect marine life.
Squiggy, a 58-year-old dolphin and one of the oldest in Sarasota Bay, was found with three large fishing hooks in her stomach and one in her mouth that was attached to 11 feet of heavy monofilament line, along with healed scars from previous entanglements.
Squiggy was first identified in September 1980 and was documented 267 times since then. Squiggy's descendants have also suffered from human interactions - her daughter died in 2012 from ingesting recreational fishing gear, the daughters 6-month-old calf died several weeks later after losing her mother and Squiggys first grand-calf died from entanglement in a crab traps float line.
Sarasota Bay dolphins are at the height of calving season, and five babies have been born so far this year, though one died for unknown reasons.
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium asked for beach locals and visitors to keep the following in mind in addition to looking out for dolphins:
- Manatees are on the move for reproduction and foraging
- Sea turtles are swimming just offshore to mate and coming ashore to nest.
- All marine mammals and sea turtles are protected by federal law, and all the species living along Southwest Florida face significant risks from human interactions.
According to Motes Stranding Investigations Program a 24-hour response service for marine mammal and sea turtles in Sarasota and Manatee counties about 25-30 percent of all animals rescued or recovered by staff were affected by human interactions such as boat strikes and fishing gear. Typically, dolphins are more likely to be harmed by fishing gear and sea turtles are more likely to be struck by boats.