The Sea World Foundation team and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) Marine Park Rangers have returned a young bottlenose dolphin back off the coast of Brisbane following its rescue and recovery from a significant wound caused by severe fishing line entanglement.

The female dolphin has spent the past month at Sea World’s veterinary rehabilitation facility recovering from a partial amputation of its dorsal fin, resulting from extensive damage caused by yards of fishing line digging into the animal for an extended period of time.

Between December 2022 and March 2023, Sea World and the Department of Environment received multiple reports of a dolphin with fishing line wrapped around its dorsal fin and tail, seen approaching boats near Harry Atkinson Artificial Reef in Moreton Bay.

The dolphin has been approaching boats for food daily, suggesting is has been fed by people for some time and learned to associate boats with an easy food source.

On 16 March 2023, Sea World worked with the Rangers and commercial fishers to temporarily catch the dolphin using a net, in an attempt to remove the line.

While attempting to remove the line, it became clear that the wound was significant and Sea World’s specialist vet made the call to transport the dolphin back to the park for further care.

Sea World Head of Marine Sciences, Wayne Phillips said the rescue operation was mounted to intervene after seeing the dolphin’s condition deteriorate.

“We are incredibly proud at Sea World to help animals in need, and it was pleasing to work with QPWS on this rescue which was one of the largest scaled operations in recent history,” Mr Phillips said.

“Our team had been working on this operation for several weeks building trust with the dolphin and on the rescue day we had over 20 of our specialised staff, utilising seven vessels to safely net the dolphin.”

Sea World veterinarian, Dr. Claire Madden said the female dolphin has recovered well from the surgery with her swimming ability unimpacted and it is a wonderful outcome to see her returned to Moreton Bay.

“We were able to remove the entanglement from the dorsal fin and tail fluke on-site, but closer inspection identified severe damage and we consulted with international experts before conducting the surgery to remove a section of dorsal fin to minimise the risk of re-entanglement in the future,” Dr Madden said.

“Without intervention, this dolphin would have succumbed to the entanglement and died a slow, painful death and we are encouraging people to be more responsible in the ways they engage with the environment – discard of fishing gear correctly, take all rubbish with you and be mindful when navigating waterways.”

On 30 March 2023, vets performed surgery to remove one third of the dolphin’s dorsal fin to prevent future entanglements on the existing scar-tissue. After allowing the wound to heal, the dolphin was ready to return to Moreton Bay yesterday (17 April 2023).

QPWS Regional Strandings Coordinator Natalie Sands said the dolphin’s entanglement and life-altering injuries were likely a result of people illegally feeding the protected animal.

“Dolphins are smart animals and will quickly learn to approach boats if they are fed by people,” Ms Sands said.

“This behaviour increases their chance of getting struck or entangled in fishing lines. It also interferes with their natural instincts.

“We are glad this dolphin has recovered from her injuries, but this rescue and rehabilitation effort could have been avoided if people had let her feed naturally.”

Ms Sands said boaties and fishers were reminded to never feed wildlife including dolphins, and to Go Slow for Those Below when in shallow waters.

“If you’re out fishing and you see a dolphin, pull your lines in until they leave. This will help prevent entanglements and stop dolphins from chasing released fish or bait.

“Anyone caught wilfully feeding dolphins can be fined, we do not want people encouraging this behaviour.”

QPWS recently fined a man $413 for feeding a dolphin from a boat at Tin Can Bay. The maximum fine a court can impose for feeding a wild dolphin is $11,500.

The Sea World Foundation Rescue Team are on call 24 hours every day, 365 days a year should a marine animal need rescuing. For more information visit

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