WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After two dolphins were recently found dead in Florida, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is offering up to a $20,000 reward for any information that helps find out who is responsible.
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A dolphin was found dead off Naples late last week by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists. The animal was fatally wounded by what appeared to be a bullet and/or sharp object.
Within the same week, another dolphin was recovered by the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge with a bullet in its left side along Pensacola Beach.
Back in May 2019, a dolphin, also with a fatal puncture wound to its head, was found dead off Captiva Island. That investigation is ongoing and also offers a reward for information.
Biologists believe these cases all stem from humans feeding wild dolphins. Those dolphins then learn to associate people and boats with food, which can put them in harmful situations.
Dolphins are then more likely to suffer fatal impacts from boat strikes, entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear and acts of intentional harm like the above incidents.
You can prevent harm to wild dolphins by refraining from feeding or attempting to feed them.
Since 2002, at least 29 dolphins (including the above) have stranded with evidence of being shot by guns or arrows, or impaled with objects like fishing spears. Four incidents have occurred within the last year, NOAA Enforcement says.
Harassing, hunting, killing or feeding wild dolphins, or attempting to do these activities 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.
If you have any information on any of these incidents, please call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.