At least three dolphins were brutally killed within a year, and AWI is supporting the efforts of local authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
In late January 2020, a dead dolphin washed up in Naples with a large hole near the animal’s mouth that appeared to have been caused by a bullet or sharp object. A necropsy on another dolphin found in late January, this time in Pensacola, revealed a bullet in the animal’s left side. In May 2019 a dolphin found off North Captiva Island had been pierced in the head by a spear-like object.
AWI marine consultant Courtney Vail is in communication with local authorities, and when she heard about the latest incident asked them how AWI could help. The answer was to offer a reward for information leading to the conviction of the culprit or culprits. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had already put up $20,000; AWI offered to add another $5,000 and is hopeful that others will follow suit.
These incidents are perhaps all the more disturbing because NMFS believes at least two of them may have occurred after the dolphins approached humans thinking they might have food. It is illegal to feed wild dolphins, but some people persist, thinking they are helping the dolphins, or because they want to get closer to the animals. When people feed dolphins, it makes them less wary of humans. NMFS postulates that in two of the recent cases, where there were injuries to the face, the culprits took advantage of the dolphins’ friendliness and used it to lure them close enough to attack and kill them. The dolphins were likely facing their attacker, mouth open, expecting food.
AWI urges readers to keep your distance when encountering dolphins and to report any individual you see approaching them too closely. If you have information about the recent Florida cases, please let us know or contact NMFS Southeast Regional Office at (727) 824-5301.