Seymour, a dolphin well known to local Marco Island boat captains for the past eight years, was captured, relieved of line that had snagged in his fluke (tail), then tagged with a satellite-tracking device and released back into his home waters.
“It’s thumbs-up, it was a great job by everybody concerned,” said a delighted Capt. Chris Desmond of the Dolphin Explorer vessel out of Rose Marina, Florida.
Desmond had been part of the rescue operation plan ever since various captains about seven months ago noticed there seemed to be something wrong with Seymour.
“When we realized uh, uh, he’s got a problem, we sent photos to Mote Marine Laboratory (in Sarasota)” Desmond said. “They forwarded the details to NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), who in turn contacted the National Fishery Service. They in turn approved an intervention.”
That intervention had the condition, Desmond said, that there had to be a Seymour sighting within five days of a planned rescue.
The first was scheduled for January after a Dec. 24 sighting, but bad weather after that foiled the plans.
“This week on Tuesday, we sighted him three times,” Desmond said. “He had a track from Smokehouse Bay, along the seawalls of this marina and then down toward the (Marco Island) Yacht Club and the other side of the (Judge S.S. Jolley) bridge.”
NOAA duly informed local responders, including Mote Marine, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, and biology teams from Harbor Branch (part of the University of Florida), Florida Atlantic University and Florida Gulf Coast University.
Teams began to comb the area early Friday, and as fate would have it, Desmond made the sighting. It was at the entrance to Collier Bay.
Participating boats then surrounded the marine animal, and pulled him onto one of the boats, using a mat.
Seymour then had the obstruction cut off his fluke, was X-rayed (at the State Road 951 boat ramp), fitted with his tracking tag and then released in the vicinity of the A, B, and C Islands near Marco’s two bridge spans.
Witness Jane Martinet said she and other Dolphin Explorer passengers had been told they would see part of the action because their departure time coincided with the capture of Seymour just a few minutes away.
“It reminded us of ‘Dolphin Tale,’” Martinet said. “When we saw him on the mat, he looked quite damaged. After that, they took him away for the X-rays.”
Martinet described Seymour as “beautiful.”
Beth Johnson described the rescue as “very neat, very cool.”
She said the passengers were excited because they had been told they were going to see some sort of “marine biology project rescue,” and to have witnessed it was amazing.