Dolphin tangled in crab pots freed

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A couple fishing on the James River last weekend thought they saw a sting ray near their boat. It turned out to be a dolphin, trapped in some crab pots.

They did what many of us would do and worked to set it free, but WAVY News learned it could have landed them in hot water. Their actions were actually a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

John Thibodeau, a spokesman for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said what seem like simple acts of kindness can actually put people and the dolphins in jeopardy.

Meagan Saunders and her husband, Bobby, said they felt bad when their boat rolled up to crab pots and saw the dolphin in distress. They said the animal’s tail was tangled up pretty badly.

The couple called the Coast Guard, and worked to free the dolphin while they waited.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center has some tips:

  • Never try to disentangle the dolphins or approach one that may have washed up on the beach.
  • Coming in contact with animals can transmit disease.
  • Program the number for the Coast Guard and Stranding Response Team (757-385-7575) so you’ll have the numbers handy in an emergency.

A NOAA representative has seen the video taken by the couple, and neither of them are expected to face charges.

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