On April 7 and April 9, 2021, as our team was conducting photographic identification surveys in the area near the massive discharges of phosphorous and nitrogen polluted waters from Piney Point, an abandoned fertilizer mine near Port Manatee in lower Tampa Bay, we observed an entangled dolphin known as CMA1917, with fishing gear embedded in its dorsal fin and trailing behind. This entangled young animal was first reported to the stranding network in June 2019.

The line was entangled around and cutting through the dolphin’s dorsal fin. After our sighting on April 7, we equipped our surveys boats with long-handled line cutting tools in case we found the animal again. Within a few minutes after the dolphin was found on April 9, we were able to approach the dolphin and cut much of the trailing line.

We were unable to make another approach closely enough to make a second attempt to remove more gear.

The line and gear we removed from dolphin CMA1917 had a wet weight of 29 grams (just over an ounce). The removed gear included at least two different tests of monofilament fishing line, a lead weight, a swivel and the top of a small broken hook.

We will continue to keep an eye on this dolphin as we monitor the dolphin community in the area for the effects of the Piney Point discharge. But please do your part to help wild dolphins:

  • Check gear and terminal tackle to make sure it won’t break off easily and, if your line does break, be sure to collect anything left behind in mangroves or on docks.
  • Use circle and corrodible hooks and avoid braided fishing line.
  • Reel in your fishing line if dolphins appear.
  • Change locations if dolphins show interest in bait or catch.
  • Try to not release your discard fish near dolphins.
  • Stash your trash in a lidded container on your boat until you can get to shore and dispose of it safely in a place where it will not blow back into the water.

Learn more about dolphin-safe fishing

Dolphin CMA1917 with the gear still attached.

Dolphin CMA1917 after we removed most of the entangling fishing gear.

The fishing gear we removed from dolphin CMA1917.