Dolphins’ lives on the line

Two calves currently resident in the Sound are suffering the impacts of serious entanglements.

One-year-old Booly and her mother Tippy live in the Sound. Booly was first seen with a discarded fishing line entangling her left pectoral in early August 2013. When she was photographed, the damage indicated that Booly has been entangled for several weeks. There is a possibility that as she grows the line may sever her fin.

For Mottle’s calf, who is less than a year old and has yet to be named, the story is even more dire. The local calf was first seen with a long fishing line entangling around his dorsal fin (and most likely his whole body) in late August 2013. Again, the presence of seagrass and the damage to his dorsal fin indicate that the calf has been entangled for several weeks.

Murdoch University postdoctoral fellow Hugh Finn, who heads the Coastal and Estuarine Dolphin Project with fellow Murdoch and Curtin University researchers, said between 1996 and 2003 about seven instances of entanglements had been reported.

‘It’s not a new issue,’ he said.

‘But it’s the main impact on the dolphins.

‘It often is (fatal).

‘(Line) just keeps cutting through the tissue which potentially leads to amputated fins, and it’s a constant source of pain and risk of infection.

‘Calves are particularly susceptible.’

Concerns are also held for 40-something-year-old dolphin Fingers, another resident of Cockburn Sound, who regularly begs in the sound and has entangled tail flukes. Dr Finn said his condition was continuing to get worse. It is understood he has not been seen for several weeks.

Dr Finn said feeding dolphins – which is illegal – made them more susceptible to becoming entangled, being struck by propellers and disrupted (and in cases like that of Fingers, almost totally destroyed) their wild behaviours.

‘We’re really trying to encourage people to be careful to never discard fishing line or net, and use biodegradable lines,’ he said.