Stone crab trap contributed to death of dolphin found near Marco Island, FWC says

Staff of the Marine Mammal Research and Rescue of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lift a dead bottlenose dolphin at Caxambas Park's boat ramp on Jan. 18, 2021.

Editor's note: This story was updated Jan. 26 to add new information provided by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about additional factors that may have contributed to the dolphin's death.

A dead dolphin entangled in a commercial stone crab trap was found in advanced state of decomposition near Marco Island.

"The staff's assessment thus far is that the crab trap entanglement contributed to the death of the dolphin," Carol Lyn Parrish, public information director with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said Tuesday.

Parrish said staff made the finding after being unable to determine a definitive cause of death due to the advanced state of decomposition of the dolphin. She wrote in an email Jan. 26 red tide levels have been elevated in the area. 

A red tide is a higher than normal concentration of a microscopic algae, according to FWC's website. In Florida, the algae that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis, which produces toxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates.

"We are not able to determine if red tide was a factor due to missing organs and decomposition," Parrish wrote.

Parrish also wrote the dolphin had evidence of shark bites.

"The dolphin had evidence of shark bites but again was too decomposed to tell if they occurred before (predation) or after (scavenging) the dolphin had died," Parrish wrote.

Parrish said she is not aware of any ongoing investigation into the incident.

"The crab traps were allowed to be out there," Parrish said.

In Florida, stone crabs are legal to harvest from October 15 through May 1, according to FWC's website.

A small group of Bottlenose Dolphins jump in the wake produced by a boat in Chokoloskee Bay during an ecological boat tour in Everglades National Park in 2011.

The dead dolphin was found Monday in the Gulf approximately a half mile from Marco Island, Parrish wrote Tuesday in an email.

The dolphin's body was collected by FWC at the Caxambas Park boat ramp with assistance of Rookery Bay National Estuarine and Research Reserve staff.

It was subsequently transported to the FWC-Southwest field lab and stored in a walk-in cooler overnight, Parrish wrote. A necropsy was conducted the next day.

FWC asks not to push, pull or roll stranded dolphins because it can cause serious injury, drowning or delay examination and treatment, Parrish wrote.

To prevent strandings, FWC asks to keep a safe distance, obey boat speed limits and keep fishing debris and trash out of the water.

If you see a stranded animal, call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline to 1-888-404-3922.

Contact Omar at omar.rodriguezortiz@naplesnews.com, and follow him on Twitter as @Omar_fromPR. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.