A local fisherman found a young, lifeless dolphin a half mile off of the coast of Longboat Key Monday morning.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit was called out around 10:37 a.m., where deputy John Fandozzi recovered the dolphin and took it to Ken Thompson Park, where Mote Marine Laboratory transported it to determine a cause of death.
On Tuesday, Mote’s Stranding Investigations program did a necropsy on the animal and discovered it was CLA2, a dolphin who was being studied by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program that uses the “natural laboratory” of Sarasota Bay to keep track of local populations. The animal was believed to be born sometime before 2010 and had been seen 16 times in the Gulf of Mexico — most recently on Aug. 1.
The dolphin’s mother, called CLAT by the research program, has been seen 13 times since 1997.
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“It’s always sad when we recover a dead animal,” said Gretchen Lovewell, the Stranding Investigations program manager.
Lovewell added that it could take months for all analyses to be completed, but even then there might not be a definitive answer.
The dolphin’s body was too decomposed to figure out exactly how it died, but researchers found it had lung issues and a moderate amount of parasites in its system that could have contributed to its death.
The skeleton will be archived in Mote’s Ruth DeLynn Cetacean Osteological Collection, which collects hundreds of bones from dolphins and small whales for future study.
Anyone who sees a injured, stranded, entangled or dead dolphin, whale, sea turtle or manatee can contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-3922. Mote also provided a contact number for their 24-hour response service with their Stranding Investigations program for any marine mammal or sea turtle in distress in Manatee or Sarasota waters: 941-988-0212.