Via YouTube: WARNING! This video contains disturbing content – but we feel it is very important to share this with the public. The video depicts three Risso’s dolphins and about 30 sea lions that were caught in a squid boat’s purse seine net in Monterey Bay, California, less than a mile from the Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday. (Our passengers also took photos and videos). On Tuesday, 4-23-2018, at about 4:30 pm – we were headed back to the Monterey Harbor after our all day whale watch tour. Our other two vessels were also watching the Risso’s dolphins nearshore. There were about 300 Risso’s Dolphins mixed with about 30 Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, scattered over at least a mile. The dolphins were about a mile offshore from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There also were about 15 squid fishing boats in the area. Risso’s Dolphins feed only on squid – at least 13 species from this area; even though they are considered a deep water dolphin, we often see them nearshore because the deep water canyon is not far away. Market squid (called calamari in restaurants) spawn nearshore a few times a year. The schools of squid travel into the sandy nearshore waters off the Aquarium to mate and lay their egg sacs before dying. The Risso’s Dolphins often feed on the squid in this area, just off the Monterey Harbor. The squid fishing boats arrive to catch the squid when they come in to spawn in this same area. Normally the squid boats fish at night using light boats to attract the squid to the surface so their small skiffs can take one end of their purse seine nets and encircle a large school of squid. The net is then pulled up onto the boat by a winch to bunch all the squid tightly into a small area where it is sucked up by a pipe into the boat’s hold. Sea lions commonly jump in and out of the nets, and the boats are legally allowed to use “seal bombs” (small sticks of dynamite) to scare the sea lions out of the nets. Currently the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary has an ongoing working group to address the issue of sea bombs related to disturbance of marine animals. Before yesterday, Before yesterday, no one had obtained video or photos of dolphins being caught in the nets – so we do not know how often this occurs. It was unusual that they were fishing during the day at the same time we were watching the dolphins in the area; therefore were able to witness the dolphins and sea lions that were captured in the net. Most fishing happens at night, when no tour boats are out. Everyone on board was excited to see the dolphins, and as we watched them we noticed they were moving toward the squid boats – and some were already mixed among all the boats. A passenger noticed that some dolphins were inside one of the purse seine nets, along with about 40 sea lions. We had our drone in the air at that time, as we were already filming the Risso’s dolphins – and we edged closer to the boat to document the scene. Our passengers were very upset to witness the dolphins and sea lions tangled in the net. They wanted to stay longer to make sure the dolphins were safely released. Clearly it was highly stressful to the three dolphins that were caught in the net that struggled to breathe as they tried to surface by spyhopping with the net covering them (see on left side of video as dolphins surface to left of white bouy line, the black net is hard to see, but it is covering all the dolphins and sea lions as the net is spread well to the outside of the white bouy lines. a large adult dolphin was pulled out of the water toward the block, but fell back into the water as they released the net. The fishermen onboard worked hard to free the dolphins, as they tried to get them over the bouy lines. Dolphins will not naturally jump over bouy lines like sea lions do, which is why so many dolphins died in the tuna fishery in the ETP in previous years. The dolphins were let out eventually, but the net was still kept tight to keep the squid inside. The boat we observed was not a local, but from Alaska – and may not be familiar with the Risso’s dolphin and their squid-eating habits. Hopefully something can be done to protect the dolphins from such a terrible situation in the future. Our passengers have asked who they should reach out to in order to express their concern: montereybay@noaa.gov (Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary).

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Written by JuneauTek

Commercial Fishing Along The Pacific West Coast

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