Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

David A. Mann, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Randall S. Wells, Ph.D.


Behavior, Fishing, Passive acoustics, Auditory evoked potentials (AEP), Outreach


Typical depredation behavior by cetaceans involves stealing or damaging prey items already captured by recreational or commercial fishing gear. Depredation among cetaceans has been reported to be increasing in both severity and frequency globally. This behavior is of particular concern for small stocks of cetaceans since any interaction with fishing gear has the potential to injure or kill animals leading to unsustainable losses. In Florida, depredation became evident in 2006 when the number of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) strandings resulting from fishing gear ingestion or entanglement sharply increased. For the resident dolphin community in Sarasota Bay, modeling showed continued mortalities from recreational fishing gear interactions were not sustainable.

The major goals of this study were to 1.) characterize depredation and recreational angler interactions involving dolphins in Sarasota Bay, 2.) reduce dolphin-angler interactions through outreach, 3.) examine a case study to investigate the link between dolphin hearing loss and angler interaction behavior, 4.) test the effectiveness of passive acoustics in monitoring dolphin depredation at a fishing pier. Findings from this study provided a better understanding of depredation and angler interactions. Results indicated that dolphin-angler interactions in Sarasota Bay are increasing in frequency and are affecting an increasing number of dolphins, specifically adult males. Some dolphins in Sarasota Bay appear to utilize depredation as a foraging method (not just an opportunistic behavior) and were significantly more likely to be within 50 m of an active fishing line.

Depredation and angler interaction behavior appear to increase in times of prey depletion (such as during a red tide) and heightened angler fishing activity. Educational outreach using an informational card proved successful in a case study showing about a 30% reduction in dolphin provisioning rates. The case study of F201 offers preliminary evidence that hearing loss is linked to depredation behavior and death for wild dolphins. Also, by detecting echolocation clicks as a proxy for dolphin presence, passive acoustics showed potential as an inexpensive method for monitoring depredation in problematic areas. Conclusions from this study can be utilized by scientists and managers when assessing depredation rates for a cetacean community and implementing an action plan.