In what might have been a positive turn of events in solving the most recent and shocking dolphin crime in Florida’s Gulf region has turned bittersweet in the midst of news confirming that the perpetrator of this intentional act was underage. The youth admitted to the crime through a written confession, and the weapon was subsequently seized by law enforcement.
In this case, a fatally-wounded bottlenose dolphin was found on December 9th near Orange Beach, Alabama, a victim of a hunting arrow that was lodged in his side. A necropsy revealed that the sub-adult male dolphin may have lived for up to five days with the arrow in his side before succumbing to a secondary infection from the wound.
The penalty that will be imposed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act is uncertain as the enforcement case moves forward. Harassing, harming, killing, or feeding wild dolphins is prohibited under the Act, and 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. The MMPA protects all species of dolphins, as well as other marine mammals such as whales and seals.
A spate of dolphin deaths resulting from directed acts of violence continues in the Gulf region, and many of these incidents remain unresolved. News of these increasing dolphin crimes has prompted WDC and other groups to offer rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for these illegal and cruel acts perpetrated against protected bottlenose dolphins.
The more recent case of the shooting of a pregnant dolphin near Destin, Florida remains an outstanding example of the difficulty that these cases present to law enforcement officials who seek any information to solve these mysterious and unfortunate acts against these protected species. WDC has offered a $2,500 reward for any information relating to this incident.
The Humane Society of the United States has recently added to this reward, bringing the total to $7,500. WDC hopes that rewards might offer an incentive to the public to step forward with any information that they might have to identify the perpetrators of these crimes. In the case of the dolphin shot by an arrow, conservation organizations and the local community rallied together to raise a reward of $24,000, serving as an indication of how serious these crimes are, and should be, taken. We hope that this incident will serve as an example for others that might contemplate harming these amazing creatures.
It is devastating that this dolphin died at the hands of a young person. We may never know the intent of this individual in seeking to harm or kill a dolphin, but we hope that through education, awareness, and the swift application of the law that the public will come to understand these magnificent creatures, their importance to the marine ecosystem, their behaviors, and their special and unique attributes that make each and every one an individual worth protecting and revering.
Dolphins in the region continue to face impacts from the Gulf oil spill, fishing gear entanglements, and habitat loss. We are disheartened that they are also subjected to these brutal attacks, and continue to seek information from anyone who may have details pertaining to these incidents, including any photos or video. The public can also do its part by helping to prevent future harm to dolphins by not feeding, attempting to feed, or directly interacting with wild dolphins. Dolphins fed by people learn to associate people with food, which puts dolphins and people at risk.