U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in MARINE MAMMAL SCIENCE (2011), 27(1): 111–129; DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2010.00401.x


Odontocete depredation involves stealing or damaging bait or prey already captured by fishing gear. The increase in depredation is of concern for small stocks of cetaceans because interactions with fishing gear can lead to serious injury or mortality through entanglement or ingestion. Using long-term data sets available for the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) community in Sarasota Bay, Florida, we investigated recreational fishing gear interactions by (1) examining temporal patterns in depredation and associated behaviors from 2000 to 2007; (2) quantifying the behavior of dolphins that depredate or engage in associated behaviors; and (3) identifying factors associated with the rise in depredation locally. The number of incidents of dolphins (primarily adult males) interacting with recreational anglers and boaters increased following 2004. Depredation and associated behaviors increased during red tide lags and tourist seasons during times of prey depletion and heightened angler and boater activity. Dolphins with a history of fishing gear interactions shifted away from natural activity patterns and were more likely to be within 50 m of fishing lines. Recreational fishing gear interactions were attributed to a two percent population decline in Sarasota Bay in 2006 and need to be considered along with other cumulative human impacts in the development of conservation measures for dolphins.