“Foul Play” Involved in Gulf Coast Dolphin Deaths

Written by on November 21, 2012 in Marine Life

Emily Tripp

Along with the more violent cases, experts have also found more "human interaction" cases, including dolphins tangled in fishing lines. Photo credit: NOAA/NMFS.

Along with the more violent cases, experts have also found more “human interaction” cases, including dolphins tangled in fishing lines. Photo credit: NOAA/NMFS.

Scientists and federal agents are looking into the violent and sometimes gruesome deaths of several bottlenose dolphins along the Gulf coast that occurred this year.

At least six dolphins have been found dead this year, some with bullet wounds, one with a missing lower jaw, and one that had been stabbed with a screwdriver.

“I think it is outrageous,” said Moby Solangi, the executive director of Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS).  “These animals are very docile, very friendly and they’re very curious.  They come close to the boats, so if you’re out there, you’ll see them riding the bows.  And their curiosity and friendship brings them so close that they become targets and that’s the unfortunate thing.”

Florida-based special agent for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Jeff Radonski, says that NOAA is investigating four of the six reported deaths.  “I can’t explain why anyone would shoot a dolphin,” Radonski told CNN.

Samia Ahmad, spokeswoman for the IMMS, explained that at least six dolphins have died as a result of “foul play.”

  • June: bottlenose dolphin found in Perdido Bay with a screwdriver stuck in its head
  • September: dolphin washed up on Elmer’s Island with a bullet in its lung
  • One dolphin was found with its lower jaw cut off
  • Most recently, another dolphin was shot and found dead on the coast of Mississippi

“It’s very sad to think that anyone could do that to any animal,” said Erin Fougeres, a marine mammal scientist for NOAA’s southeast office.  “There have been some obviously intentional cases.”

Dolphins are protected under with 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Violation of the Act can result in up to a $20,000 fine and a year in prison.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible for these sad deaths.

To learn more:

  • Check out this story from the Calgary Herald: Dolphins shot, mutilated, stabbed along Gulf Coast, leaving experts mystified (with photos) (link no longer active)

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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