GALVESTON

An animal rescue group Wednesday was searching the Galveston Ship Channel and asking volunteers to keep an eye out for a young dolphin caught in marine debris.

If the animal isn’t soon found and freed, it might die, according to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

The standing network put out a call Tuesday for volunteers to go out to the Galveston Ship Channel in search of the young animal as it swims with its mother, said Heidi Whitehead, the network’s executive director.

Rescuers need to get a better idea about the animals’ regular movements before they can attempt to capture the dolphin and free it from the trash it’s tangled in, they said.

“We’re trying to develop movement patterns for mom and baby to see if they go in areas where we might be able to develop sight ability for them and see them in catchable waters,” he said. “We’re trying to find out where they go and what time of day they’re there.”

It’s unclear what kind of debris the animal is wrapped in, she said. It appears to be some kind of hard plastic ring or metal, she said. The debris is clearly visible when the dolphin surfaces.

The dolphin is less than a year old and was probably born in the spring, according to the organization.

The stranding network has been watching the dolphin for about 10 days, Whitehead said. It was only Tuesday that the network received permission from the National Marine Fisheries Service to begin a recovery operation and ask for the public’s help, she said.

The fisheries services oversees matters involving bottlenose dolphins, which are a federally protected species.

Time is of the essence to find and help the dolphin, Whitehead said. If the debris isn’t removed soon, the dolphin could be strangled or critically injured as it grows. Recent photographs appeared to show that the debris is embedded in the dolphin’s body.

Dolphins typically are seen in the Galveston Ship Channel, and people who want to help could attempt to look for the them by going to Pier 21 or Texas A&M University at Galveston and watching the water, she said. Volunteers who spot the dolphin should call the stranding network at 800-962-6625.

“If they do see it, we’re asking them to call immediately,” Whitehead said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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