Dolphin found tangled in illegally-placed fishing net off Texas coast, officials say

A bottlenose dolphin was tangled up in a fishing net that is illegal in Texas waters, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Fortunately, someone in a charter boat spotted the dolphin and called for help.

Crews with Coast Guard Station South Padre Island were called to the net at about 10:30 a.m. May 4, according to a news release from the agency.

Alongside the dolphin were 10 bonnethead sharks, a blacktip shark, 20 catfish and a redfish, officials said.

“This incident clearly exemplifies the negative impacts of illegal fishing gear used in U.S. waters,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Ferguson, a Station South Padre Island boarding officer, in the news release. “Not only does it impact marine life, but the entire ecosystem as a whole. Thankfully, we were able to free the dolphin and remove the gillnet before it trapped and killed any additional marine life.”

Gillnets — “consisting of a wall of netting with mesh designed to trap fish’s head” — are a major cause of marine animal deaths, according to the Coast Guard. The nets are illegal in Texas waters.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries says gillnets are used to target fish including salmon, tuna and sea bass. They can also catch whales, dolphins, sea lions and other marine mammals.

If a marine mammal is tangled up for too long, officials say they can drown.

“A variety of regulations and factors determine the mesh size, length, and height of commercial gillnets, including area fished and target species,” according to NOAA.

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