Winter the Dolphin —
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium describes Winter’s story in this way:
At only three months of age, Winter found herself wrapped tightly in a crab trap line and was unable to escape. She was rescued from Mosquito Lagoon (near Cape Canaveral) and transported to CMA to begin a long rehabilitation. Unfortunately, Winter lost her entire tail as well as two vertebrae a result of the serious injuries that she had sustained.
Although her story is intriguing, it is also very rare, as many dolphins unfortunately die in monofilament and crab trap lines. Despite the odds against survival, Winter’s energy and ability to adapt to her new physical form has surpassed the expectations of many experts. Winter has done amazingly well in the short time since her stranding. She has completely healed, adapted to a new swim pattern, and learned to eat fish on her own…about twelve pounds a day! She is growing quickly, and now weighs in at 230 pounds!
The collaborative efforts of Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, Inc., a leading human prosthetics company, with Dr. Mike Walsh, a leading marine mammal veterinarian, and CMA’s world-class marine mammal trainers, created one well-thought-out plan of action. How, you might ask, does one go about preparing a dolphin for a prosthetic tail? It certainly is challenging: attaching a complete fluke and joint onto an inexperienced dolphin had never been done before, but it was a challenge we felt good about! … Our training process with the prosthetic tail is an ongoing process. As mentioned earlier, it takes many creative minds to build what is ultimately the best for the animal. This is why the dedication and the creative minds of the trainers, the veterinarian, and Hanger prosthetics are an invaluable resource to the ongoing care of our beloved Winter!
Why write about Winter on a website about beaches? For one thing, many beach lovers are also nature lovers, especially when it comes to beach/sea animals. For another, I’ve always been interested in marine mammals. At one time I even wanted to become a dolphin trainer. If you’re on this website chances are you like beach-related animals too.
While I never did work with marine mammals professionally, I did work in the education departments at both Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and Sea World in Orlando, both of which brought me in close contact with many dedicated and knowledgeable people. These experiences and my continuing passion for sea life make Winter’s story especially personal to me. They also remind me that losing her tail and almost her life need not have happened.
We can all do a lot to prevent injury and death to marine animals. You may be thinking, “What can I do? I’m only one person.” Even if you never go to a beach there’s a lot you can do. And if you are a beachgoer, you can do even more.
How You Can Help
Never litter. It was discarded fishing and crab trap lines that injured Winter. Many turtles are killed as a result of eating plastic bags because they look like jellyfish. Many seals, sea lions, and sea otters die as a result of getting their heads stuck in plastic rings that hold six packs together. If you do nothing else, please throw your trash in a garbage can. It’s such a small step to take and has such enormous consequences.
Cut down on the amount of plastic you use. Plastic litter is dangerous to sea life, plastic never breaks down in the environment, and lots of petroleum is used to manufacture plastic. Ways you can cut down your plastic use include:
- Limit your use of disposable plastics, like plastic bags and water bottles, by carrying your own reusable shopping bags and/or water bottle.
- Look for products made from recycled materials that have little or no packaging, or packaging that is recyclable.
- Try to avoid Styrofoam products—bring your own mug to the coffee shop, and a container for leftovers when you eat out.
- Know which plastics can be recycled in your city and recycle!
- Make sure all non-recyclable plastics are securely disposed of.
- Pick up trash on the street and put it in a trash can.
Eat “ocean friendly” seafood. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has extensive resources, online and printable, recommending what seafood to eat and what to avoid.
Even if you can only do one thing to help that’s a step in the right direction. The purpose of this site is to enjoy the beach and everything connected with it. But, if we don’t preserve our beaches and oceans there won’t be anything left to enjoy.
To many joyful beach experiences!
— Lisa Dworkin