The Emerald Coast is famous not only for its stunning beaches but also for the huge population of dolphins that can be spotted by boat or from local piers. Playful and friendly, these creatures are a delight to behold. Unfortunately, local dolphins are far more vulnerable than most people realize. Dolphin crimes are on the rise in Northwest Florida, with a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicating that 279 dolphins were found stranded between February and June 2019. Sadly, 98 percent of these dolphins died.
NOAA officials suspect that lingering effects from the 2010 BP oil spill could be, in part, responsible for the recent rise in dolphin deaths. A Louisiana spillway may also be to blame. These are just two of many factors contributing to local dolphin mortality, however. Criminal activity also plays a role. Dolphin crimes are shockingly common in Northwest Florida, where far too many dolphins have been discovered with gunshot wounds.
Recent Spikes in Dolphin Crimes: What’s Fueling the Cruelty?
Dolphin crime is nothing new in Florida, but the prevalence appears to have increased dramatically in recent years. A New York Times story published in 2018 revealed that 21 dolphins were discovered dead with gunshot wounds since 2002, with an additional two dolphins succumbing to arrows. One was even impaled by a screwdriver.
Despite local desperation to curb this trend, it has proven surprisingly difficult to determine the cause and crackdown on perpetrators. Bottlenose dolphin expert Stacey Horstman believes that the public’s tendency to feed dolphins may be, in part, to blame. She points to a domino effect, in which wild dolphins fed by humans change their behavior. Increasingly confident around humans, some may even snatch food from local fishermen, many of whom choose to retaliate.
Other offenders simply shoot dolphins for sport. Without feeding-inspired behavioral changes, however, most dolphins would not come within sufficient range to be such easy targets. Often, a single person is responsible for multiple dolphin deaths.
What Can Be Done to Protect Northwest Florida’s Dolphin Population?
Protection begins with resisting the urge to feed dolphins. They are best observed and enjoyed from afar. Locals and tourists alike can do their part by promptly reporting any dolphin-related criminal activity they observe. Those who find dolphins on the beach should either contact law enforcement officials or local stranding networks, which can send volunteers out quickly to investigate.
Public awareness is also critical — especially as far as penalties are concerned. Those who kill dolphins often fail to recognize the steep repercussions. Depending on the specifics of the case, wounding or killing a dolphin could lead to significant fines or even jail time.
As Florida residents, we can play a critical role in protecting marine wildlife. Our efforts could ensure that dolphins remain free to explore the waters of the Gulf, without suffering deadly gunshot or arrow wounds. Together, we can make a difference for one of the region’s most beloved marine animals.
If you have been accused of committing a crime, it is critical that you seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Attorney John F. Greene can help. He has an impressive track record in criminal defense, having provided stellar representation for a wide array of clients in Destin and surrounding communities. Call 850-424-6833 today or reach out online to schedule a case consultation.