TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and agency partners are increasing the hefty reward for help identifying the person or persons responsible for the recent deaths of two dolphins.
The reward has been increased up to $54,000.
Wildlife officials say the corpse of a dolphin washed up on a beach in Naples the late into the first week of February. The animal appeared to have been fatally wounded by a bullet and/or a sharp object.
Within the same week, another dolphin was found dead off Pensacola Beach with a bullet wound in its left side, officials said.
NOAA is also investigating the death of a dolphin that was found off Captiva Island in May 2019. A necropsy showed the animal was impaled with a spear-like object while alive.
The dolphin was known to biologists in the area and was last seen swimming around fishing boats.
NOAA said he was seen with “begging dolphins” and the puncture wound shows the dolphin may have been in a begging position when it was stabbed.
The NOAA said biologists believe the cases stem from humans feeding wild dolphins. Dolphins will learn to associate people with boats and food, putting them in harmful situations. Dolphins are more likely to be harmed by boat strikes, fishing gear and acts of unintentional harm, officials said.
Dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. A fine of up to $100,000 may be issued to persons who harass, hunt, kill or feed wild dolphins. They could also face up to one year in jail per violation. A Kansas man was recently fined $1,250 for feeding a dolphin while on vacation in Florida.
Wildlife officials are offering a reward for information that leads to the successful identification of a person involved, or the civil penalty or criminal conviction of the person or persons responsible for the recent deaths.
They’re asking anyone with information to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.
- ‘Felt like I was able to breathe’: Relief in Tampa for many after guilty verdict in Chauvin trial
- Florida transgender athlete bill may be dead for the year, bill sponsor says
- St. Petersburg residents react to Chauvin verdict
- 2021 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Race Weekend
- Las Vegas Raiders receive backlash for ‘I can breathe’ tweet following Chauvin verdict