Tuna purse-seiners in the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP) capture yellowfin tuna by chasing and encircling herds of associated dolphins. This fishery has caused mortality in 14 dolphin species (20 stocks) and has led to significant depletions of at least three stocks. Although observed dolphin mortality is currently low, set frequency remains high and dolphin stocks are not recovering at expected rates. Mortality of nursing calves permanently separated from their mothers during fishery operations may be an important factor in the lack of population recovery, based on the recent discovery that calves do not accompany 75%–95% of lactating females killed in the purse-seine nets. We assessed age-specific potential for mother–calf separations and subsequent mortality of calves by reviewing and synthesizing published data on physiological and behavioral development in delphinids from birth through 3 yr postpartum. Results indicate that evasive behavior of mothers, coupled with the developmental state of calves, provides a plausible mechanism for set-related mother–calf separations and subsequent mortality of calves. Potential for set-related separation and subsequent mortality is highest for 0–12-mo-old dolphins and becomes progressively lower with age as immature dolphins approach adult stamina and attain independence.