A legal advocacy organization is offering an additional $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest after two dolphins were found dead in Florida. Both had either been shot or stabbed.
The discovery prompted NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement to offer a hefty reward — $20,000 — in February for information leading to a civil penalty or criminal conviction of the person or persons responsible.
GRAPHIC CONTENT: The photo below may be disturbing to some.
Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discovered a dead dolphin off the coast of Naples in late January. Within the same week, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge experts recovered a dolphin with a bullet in its left side along Pensacola Beach.
Now, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is offering an additional $10,000 for information leading to an arrest.
“People who hurt animals don't stop with animals. There is a link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to human beings,” Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells said. “We commend the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for taking these senseless acts of cruelty seriously and urge anyone with information to come forward so those responsible can be brought to justice.”
According to the defense fund, it's a crime to harass, hunt, kill or feed wild dolphins under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The maximum penalty for each violation is up to one year in jail or a fine of $100,000 or, in some cases, both.
In May 2019, a dolphin was found dead off Captiva Island. It had a puncture wound to its head.
Since 2002, at least 29 dolphins been discovered to be shot by guns or arrows or impaled with objects like fishing spears.
If you have information on any of the incidents, you're urged to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.
DON'T FEED DOLPHINS
Biologists believe these cases may stem from humans feeding wild dolphins. Dolphins fed by people learn to associate people and boats with food which can put them in harmful situations.
Dolphins may suffer fatal impacts from boat strikes, entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear, and acts of intentional harm like these.
People can prevent harm to wild dolphins by not feeding or attempting to feed them.