News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,
April 2, 2019

Young Dolphin Returned to Wild after Suffering Injuries from Fishing Line

Sarasota Bay, FL
- For the second time in three weeks a young dolphin is swimming free of fishing line thanks to the efforts of a rescue team involving collaborating organizations from up and down Florida’s west coast.
During a routine field survey in February, biologists from the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP) noticed a 2-year-old male dolphin looking underweight. A month later, the animal looked even skinnier and had fishing line deeply embedded in his tail.

Upon approval by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, SDRP mobilized a rescue team to catch the dolphin, remove the gear, look at the animal’s overall health, treat it as necessary, and release the dolphin back into its natural habitat. This kind of rescue effort requires a lot of resources; in this case eight boats and 48 people, including veterinary staff, biologists, and trained dolphin handlers.

The rescue team sighted the dolphin soon after leaving the dock. It was alone, having separated from its mother over the past few weeks. Within 20 minutes, the team was able to encircle it with a net in shallow water and begin line removal and treatment, including an antibiotic shot. The monofilament fishing line, with the added drag from algae and tunicates, had cut 85 percent of the way through the right tail fluke. With every tail beat, the line was cutting further and further through the tail. After successfully freeing the line from the young dolphin, he swam away strongly.

The rescue was conducted under a NOAA permit, and led by the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program working in collaboration with partners, including Mote Marine Laboratory, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southeast Region Office.

In the following weeks, SDRP biologists will continue to go out and monitor the calf's progress.

Because this was the second disentanglement of a young dolphin from fishing line in only three weeks along the central west coast of Florida, scientists and wildlife management officials are concerned that the decline in fish stocks from the recent severe red tide may be bringing mother dolphins into closer contact with anglers. This has the potential to create situations where their young, naive calves can become entangled in fishing gear. Anglers are urged to be cautious if dolphins appear, and to reel in their lines until the dolphins leave.

The best way to help marine life in trouble is to call trained responders, report your location and wait near the animal. Please call 1-877-WHALE HELP to report injured or dead marine life or use NOAA's Dolphin and Whale 911 phone app.

The rescue was conducted under NOAA permit 18786-03.

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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit

Photo credit: Photographs taken by the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program under National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) permit no. 18786-03.
1 - Photo of young dolphin's tail, which was found with a fishing line deeply embedded within it.
2 - The rescue team treats the dolphin's tail, removes the fishing line, and provides antibiotics. 


Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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