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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

    DAO prepress abstract   -  DOI:

    Characterising injuries and pathologies of common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) mortalities in the South Australian Sardine Fishery

    C. Kemper*, I. Tomo, G. Bovari, D. Hamer, S. Gibbs, T. Segawa Fellowes

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Mortality of dolphins in fishing operations is often under-estimated, as shown by studies of beach-washed carcasses. Linking evidence obtained during necropsies with fishing method is fundamental to understanding the extent of mortality and the manner in which animals die. The South Australian Sardine Fishery (SASF) has operated a purse-seine industry since 1991. This study characterised injuries, pathological changes and life history of 49 dead dolphins collected from SASF during 2006–2019. Histology examination was conducted on 25. Neonates, calves and juveniles accounted for 63% of the sample. Of mature females (n = 14), 11 were pregnant or lactating with cryptic mortality estimated to be 20% of dolphins studied. Body condition was robust in 48 dolphins. Net marks were seen on 82%, mostly on the head, trunk and peduncle. Broken/missing teeth were noted in 63%. All dolphins had subdermal haemorrhage (moderate to severe in 96%), particularly around the head. Deep haemorrhage was common, including around occipital and flipper condyles, and organs. Copious fluid was present in the thoracic (pleural) and abdominal (ascites) cavities of half the dolphins. Within the lungs, watery fluid and froth were observed in 100% and 39%, respectively. Recent bone fractures were documented in 43% of dolphins, mostly associated with haemorrhage. Severe blunt trauma appeared to be the primary cause of death and 10 dolphins also had other significant pathologies. Visceral organ congestion and mild cardiomyopathy were observed. Stomachs contained prey remains in 75% of cases. The results of this study may help identify unreported purse-seine mortalities washed up in South Australia and elsewhere.