SeaWorld And Hubbs-SeaWorld Scientists Uncover Fatal Attraction: Dolphins
Choking On Fish, Fishing Line
ORLANDO, Fla., June 24, 2013
ORLANDO, Fla., June 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --A team of scientists from
SeaWorld and the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute has uncovered an unusual
cause of death among bottlenose dolphins in Florida's Indian River Lagoon:
asphyxiation (choking) by ingestion of certain fish.
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"This is the first study documenting a statistically significant number of
dolphin deaths caused by choking," said Megan Stolen, M.S., Hubbs-SeaWorld
Research Institute scientist and the study's principal author.
"This research lays a critical foundation for future study because of
environmental changes and invasive species altering prey populations," said
Published last week in open-access scientific journal PLOS One, the study
found the choking deaths were caused by one of two things: the dolphins had
ingested strong-spined fish whose fins had punctured and lodged in the
esophagus obstructing the airway; or the animals had eaten fish attached to
fishing line which wrapped around the larynx and interfered with breathing.
The study found a 4 percent dolphin mortality rate (14 of 350 deaths) over the
past 15 years due to asphyxiation. When the Indian River Lagoon animals were
compared to dolphins from Florida's oceanside beaches, the significance of
these findings was stark. The oceanside animals had no cases of similar
asphyxiation either from line or fish ingestion.
While the impact of prey availability is under further review, the connection
between dolphin deaths and recreational fishing in the lagoon is of more
immediate concern. In more than one-third of the cases identified,
researchers found dolphins had choked on fish ensnared with hooks that
embedded in the esophagus or with monofilament line that became entangled in
the animals' larynx.
Fishing gear -- line, lures, hooks -- has long been recognized as a danger to
marine animals, including manatees, sea turtles and dolphins. SeaWorld has
rescued and rehabilitated thousands of animals that have become entangled and
the company urges anglers to properly use and dispose of gear and avoid
fishing in environmentally sensitive areas.
"Over the next year, our work will be focusing on defining all of the
significant causes of mortality for dolphins in the lagoon," said SeaWorld's
Judy St. Leger, DVM, DACVP, one of the study's coauthors. "We also suspect
that this choking concern might be happening in other dolphin populations. We
hope this report spurs other researchers to look for and report trends like
Scientists at SeaWorld and the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute have been
monitoring the lagoon's 700+ dolphin population since 1987.
Study contributors include Erika Nilson of SeaWorld, and Wendy Durden, M.S.
and Teresa Mazza of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.
About Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, founded in 1963 to conduct research in the
tradition of world-renowned scientists Dr. Carl L. and Laura C. Hubbs, is a
public, non-profit charity dedicated to providing effective solutions to
conflicts that arise between human activity and the natural world.
Hubbs-SeaWorld scientists apply sophisticated technologies to seek the
solutions that protect and conserve marine animals while benefiting humans and
their reliance on marine resources. The Institute also recognizes the critical
importance of scientific literacy as a foundation for competing in the highly
technical and competitive global economy and strives to provide innovative
education programs to promote scientific literacy among our children and young
scientists. In 2013, HSWRI celebrates 50 years of its mission "to return to
the sea some measure of the benefits derived from it."
About SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment
company delivering personal, interactive and educational experiences that
enable its customers to celebrate, connect with and care for the natural world
we share. The Company owns or licenses a portfolio of globally recognized
brands including SeaWorld®, Shamu® and Busch Gardens®. Over its more than 50
year history, the Company has built a diversified portfolio of 11 destination
and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is one of the world's foremost zoological
organizations. The Company maintains one of the largest animal collections in
the world and has helped lead advances in the care of species in zoological
facilities and in the conservation of wild populations. SeaWorld Parks &
Entertainment also operates one of the world's most respected programs to
rescue, rehabilitate and return to the ocean marine animals that are ill,
injured and orphaned. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 22,000
animals in need over the last four decades.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a wholly owned subsidiary of SeaWorld
Entertainment, Inc., a publicly traded company (NYSE: SEAS). Additional
information about SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. can be obtained online at
SOURCE SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
Contact: Becca Bides, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Corporate
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