An Orca expert is urging people to follow in the footsteps of a local who promptly raised the alarm after spotting a tangled dolphin in Ruakaka.

The dolphin was spotted by Whangarei man Magnus Berg who was enjoying his usual smoko break at the end of Mair Rd at about 10.30am yesterday. He said out of the corner of his eye he spotted the dolphin being dragged by two white buoys.

"I thought 'wait that's a dolphin' it was coming up and taking breaths and next thing I saw nets going up and down.

"I thought maybe they are just getting fish but the way it was being dragged I thought it's got to be something. It probably travelled about 50 meters. It didn't take it very long, probably about 10 minutes. You could see it being dragged along."

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Mr Berg had spotted dolphins before during his breaks but the way this dolphin was travelling concerned him so he contacted the Department of Conservation (DoC).

The DoC Whangarei detanglement team was out of town so they called Orca expert Ingrid Visser who was on the water searching for the bottlenose dolphin by 1pm. After a three-hour search on the water, Dr Visser said they did not find the dolphin.

"What we're doing now is urging people to call us if they see anything. While we were out we got a call from Magnus who sent us back where he'd seen one buoy. We checked to make sure the dolphin had not drowned so we checked the lines and it was clear. There was also another white float spotted near Marsden Pt by one of the refinery workers so we're hoping the dolphin is free."

Dolphins occasionally get trapped in pots set by fisherman and she asked people to ensure their lines were as short as possible.

"Sometimes when the lines are long, dolphins play in them. We never blame the fisherman though, we understand these things happen."

-Anyone who spots a tangled dolphin can call the Dr Visser on 0800 733 6722 or DoC's 24 hour emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Coastguard can also be contacted if boaties are out of reception.