Crews working for the environmental organization 4Ocean came across a Bottlenose dolphin in Bali during their shift one afternoon. 4ocean employs crews all over the world to clear trash and plastic pollution in the oceans. Last November, the crew spotted something unusual during a routine cleanup mission.

The crew had their cleanup gear ready to begin work off the coast of Jembrana. Once they made it to a floating debris patch, they saw the Bottlenose dolphin entangled in the debris. As they got closer, they soon realized it was a life-or-death situation. The heavy debris kept dragging the dolphin underwater, and it struggled to breathe.

“Our team in Bali, Indonesia, came across a Bottlenose dolphin that was entangled on a fishing line on the brink of drowning. They quickly jumped into action and were able to free this dolphin from all the entangled fishing line and safely release it back into the ocean,” CEO of 4ocean Alex Schulze said.

The bottlenose dolphin escaped thanks to the dedicated 4ocean crew.

The desperate dolphin fought for its life with a fishing line wrapped tightly around its mouth. While cleaning up trash, the crew pulled the dolphin onto their boat to help free it. They took a small pair of scissors to cut the lines wrapped around the dolphin’s mouth, body, and tail. The crew also removed several fishing hooks embedded in the animal’s body.

The Bottlenose dolphin appeared to have cut from the fishing gear, but they weren’t severe enough to keep it from swimming. The animal also had other injuries, likely caused by a shark, but it wasn’t around any longer. After removing the fishing line and ensuring the dolphin’s injuries weren’t life-threatening, the crew released it back into the ocean. The team watched as the dolphin swam away happily, finally free from the fishing line’s grip.

“We’re incredibly proud of our cleanup teams, not only in Bali, Indonesia but all around the world, that can have an impact on the amount of plastic that’s in the ocean, as well as any animals that may be entangled in this debris,” Alex said.

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Plastic pollution and other debris affects all marine life

Upon freeing the Bottlenose dolphin, the crew began cleaning up plastic and other trash in the area. They determined that the fishing line and rods entangled the dolphin was used to catch layur fish. The fishing line measured about 82 feet and weighed nearly 7 pounds. It’s easy to see how that could’ve drowned the poor dolphin.

Discarded fishing gear accounts for around 10% of all plastic debris scattered across the oceans. Marine animals like whales, dolphins, sea turtles, fish, seabirds, and marine mammals get caught in them each year. Unfortunately, not all of them escape. In 2018 alone, ‘ghost fishing gear’ killed up to 650,000 marine animals worldwide.

The WWF reports on other consequences of abandoned fishing gear:

  • Entanglement of ingestion of plastic debris affects 557 marine species, up from 267 since 1997. Ghost gear harms 66% of marine mammals, 50% of seabirds, and all 7 species of marine turtles.
  • Each year, lost gear around the world includes 5.7 percent of all fishing nets, 8.6 percent of traps and pots, and 29 percent of all fishing lines.
  • In the Gulf of California near Mexico, illegal and abandoned gillnets have nearly caused the extinction of the vaquita porpoise – only around ten remain.
  • Ghost gear doesn’t just harm marine species; it also affects their habitats. Additionally, it damages coral, and other vegetation causes sediment build-up, and inhibits access to important ecosystems.
  • It takes about 600-800 years for fishing nets to decompose, on average.

In Bali, many dolphin species receive special protection, so fishers can’t hunt them. However, they still can get trapped in abandoned fishing gear, which occurs quite often. Thankfully, Bali’s maritime authorities have taught local fishers to release any entangled dolphins. While this can help to save marine life, it won’t completely solve the problem.

It’s clear that the fishing industry needs stricter regulations to reduce plastic pollution from fishing gear. The World Animal Protection says governments should set guidelines for marking fishing gear. Also, laws obligating fishers to retrieve and report lost gear should be better enforced.

The organization launched the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to achieve these goals, which calls for governments and organizations to collaborate on the issue. Together, they will share data, resources, and educational material in addition to coordinating search efforts. So far, 16 governments have joined the initiative, marking a huge step in the right direction.

Marco Lambertini, General Director of WWF International, said:

“This is a global problem which requires coordinated action across the world, which is why WWF urges governments and businesses to support the establishment of a new global UN treaty on plastic pollution that sets out global goals and binding targets for both land- and marine-based plastic pollution, which in turn can help drive robust local regulation of ghost gear. We must stop ghost gear from decimating marine life and drowning the ocean we all depend on once and for all.”

Hopefully, governments around the world will get on board with the initiative to enforce stricter fishing laws. Ensuring fishing operations clean up their gear will make a positive impact on both the oceans and marine life.

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Final Thoughts: Crew rescues an entangled Bottlenose dolphin in Bali

While working in Bali, a 4ocean crew spotted a Bottlenose dolphin entangled in fishing lines. They immediately sprang into action, using scissors and a knife to cut the dolphin loose. The crew was thankful to have helped the beautiful creature, but not all animals get so lucky.

Hundreds of thousands of marine life die from being entangled in fishing debris each year. ‘Ghost fishing gear’ also harms their habitat and makes it difficult to access the ecosystems. Environmental organizations have called on governments to enforce stricter laws regarding fishing gear. Hopefully, this will make commercial fisherman clean up their act and make the oceans safer for marine animals.