A dead dolphin has washed up on the shores of Orange Beach, Alabama after being fatally shot with a hunting arrow. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the dolphin appears to have survived for around five days before succumbing to an infection as a result of its injury. Horrifically, the death is the second in the Gulf of Mexico in as many weeks, following the shooting of a heavily pregnant female dolphin, which washed up dead on Florida shores. NOAA are calling for members of the public who may have any information about the killings of the protected animals to please come forward. They are offering a reward of $20,000 for information leading to an arrest in the arrow shooting case after corporate donors made generous donations to support the cause.
While we can’t even fathom how a person could commit such a crime, NOAA notes that the public can help prevent such incidents by not feeding or even attempting to feed wild dolphins. Since dolphins are so intelligent, such behavior leads them to quickly associate humans with food sources, something they then teach their young. As a result, wild dolphins learn to remove bait and catch directly from recreational and commercial fishing gear. This is frustrating to fishermen and is believed to have led to an increase in retaliatory violence towards dolphins, although the possibility of other less pragmatic motivations for the attacks can’t be ruled out either. Reuters reports that at least 17 dolphins have washed ashore in the Gulf of Mexico with gunshot wounds since 2002, with incidents increasing.
Within U.S. waters, harassing, harming, killing and feeding wild dolphins is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Violations can be prosecuted either civilly or criminally and are punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation. In 2009, a Florida boat captain was sentenced to two years in prison for attempting to kill dolphins with homemade pipe bombs. Yes, really!
NOAA officials seek information from anyone with details of the latest incidents. Please call NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement in Niceville, Florida, via 850-729-8628, or the NOAA Enforcement Hotline via 1-800-853-1964 as soon as possible if you have any information. Tips may be left anonymously.
Photos by NOAA