By Sun Herald, Biloxi/Gulfport//Pascagoula
An increasing number of dead dolphins – some shot, almost all mutilated – has placed marine agencies on “heightened awareness” for the killer or killers of these beloved marine mammals.
“We think there’s someone or some group on a rampage,” said Moby Solangi, executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. “They not only kill them but also mutilate them.”
We hope those responsible are quickly identified and feel the full brunt of the law. Anyone found harassing, harming, killing or feeding wild dolphins can be fined up to $100,000 and sentenced to one year in jail for each violation under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
If you have any information about these despicable acts, please contact authorities. If you see a dolphin being abused, call the Department of Marine Resources’ Marine Patrol dispatch at 523-4134 day or night. If you find a dead or stranded dolphin, call the IMMS dolphin line at 1-888-767-3657 or NOAA at 1-800-853-1964.
As with alligators, humans can place wildlife in danger by mindlessly feeding them. Feeding wild dolphins causes them to become so used to approaching humans and boats for food they make brazen attempts at preying on hooked bait and catches, creating conflicts with fishermen.
Yet even though dolphins can be a nuisance for fishermen, Solangi hopes recreational and commercial fishermen will provide information that might help identify a suspect or suspects. “I think we need our fishermen friends to find these guys,” he said. “Our best allies are shrimpers.”
The dead dolphins found along the shorelines of the northern Gulf indicate a viciousness beyond any excusable action a fisherman might take to defend his bait or catch. This is cruelty that even the vastness of the Gulf should not be able to hide.