Two dolphins found shot, stabbed and killed off Florida coast, authorities offer $20,000 reward for information

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, those convicted for such offenses face up to $100,000 in fine and up to one year in jail per violation


                            Two dolphins found shot, stabbed and killed off Florida coast, authorities offer $20,000 reward for information
(Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Florida authorities are searching for the culprits responsible for the recent gruesome deaths of two dolphins which were found on the beach having been shot and stabbed.

The Office of Law Enforcement for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere, has offered a reward of up to $20,000 for information that leads to a civil penalty or criminal conviction of the person/persons behind the deaths.

The first dolphin was found by biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission off Naples, Florida, late last week. It was fatally wounded from what appeared to be a bullet and/or a sharp object. The same week, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge experts recovered a dolphin with a bullet in its life side along Pensacola Beach, Florida.

The authorities are also searching for information about another ongoing investigation looking into the death of a third dolphin that was found with a fatal wound to its head off Captiva Island, Florida, in May 2019. That, too, comes with a reward. 

Biologists suspect these cases stem from humans feeding wild dolphins and say dolphins fed by people learn to associate people and boats with food, which can, in turn, put them in harmful situations.

Dolphins regularly die after suffering fatal impacts from boat strikes, entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear, and other acts of intentional harm and experts have urged that such cases can be prevented by not feeding or attempting to feed these wild dolphins. Since 2002, at least 29 dolphins, including the most recent three, have stranded in the Southeast US, with evidence suggesting they were shot by guns or arrows or impaled with objects like fishing spears. Out of these 29, four incidents have occurred within the last year alone.

Harassing, hunting, killing or feeding wild dolphins, or attempting to do these activities is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act passed in 1972 in response to increasing concerns among scientists and the public that significant declines in some species of marine mammals were caused by human activities. Under the act, those accused of such offenses can be prosecuted either criminally or civilly and face up to $100,000 in fine and up to one year in jail per violation.

Anyone with information on the deaths of the three dolphins can call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964. Tips can be left anonymously.

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