NAPLES, Fla. — NOAA said Tuesday their Office of Law Enforcement is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information that leads to a civil penalty or criminal conviction of the person or persons responsible for the recent deaths of two dolphins in Florida.
Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said they discovered a dead dolphin off Naples, Florida, late last week.
NOAA said the animal was fatally wounded from what appeared to be a bullet or a sharp object.
Within the same week, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge experts recovered a dolphin with a bullet in its left side along Pensacola Beach, Florida.
A dolphin, also with a fatal puncture wound to its head, was found dead off Captiva Island, Florida, in May 2019. NOAA said that investigation is ongoing and also offers a reward for information.
NOAA officials said they are seeking information from anyone who may have details about these incidents.
You are urged to call the NOAA Enforcement hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.
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.
People can prevent harm to wild dolphins by not feeding or attempting to feed them.
NOAA said since 2002 at least 29 dolphins, including these two, have stranded with evidence of being shot by guns or arrows, or impaled with objects like fishing spears. Four incidents have occurred within the last year.
Harassing, hunting, killing or feeding wild dolphins, or attempting to do these activities is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Violations can be prosecuted either civilly or criminally and punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation.