In a report from the Sun Herald, a team from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport found a dolphin on Ship Island on Friday with its lower jaw missing. The weekend before, the IMMS responded to a call about a dead dolphin along the Ocean Springs/Gautier coast with a bullet wound from a 9mm.
“It went through the abdomen, into the kidneys and killed it,” said Moby Solangi, IMMS executive director.
There was a dolphin discovered with its tail cut off in Louisiana.
“Animals don’t eat each other’s tails off,” Solangi said. “We think there’s someone or some group on a rampage. They not only kill them but also mutilate them.”
According to IMMS, the first dolphin shooting was investigated early in 2012 and the incidents have increases recently. According to a press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a dolphin was stabbed and killed with a screwdriver in Alabama. A dolphin was found in September with a bullet in its lung on Elmer’s Island in Louisiana.
“Please be aware that we are seeing a marked increase in HI strandings along the northern Gulf,” an email message said from NOAA. The message from NOAA also said that the National Marine Fisheries Services Law Enforcement and the Southeast Regional Office are aware of the problems and are monitoring them.
“We are requesting a ‘heightened awareness’ and continued careful documentation as you examine all future carcasses,” the NOAA directive said.
The two organizations, NOAA and IMMS, still do not know who is killing the dolphins, which is a federal crime. Fines for those who harass, kill, harming or feeding wild dolphins can be as much as $100,000. Those crimes could also be come with a prison term of one year for each violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, signed into law in 1972.
“This is not an ordinary person who is doing it,” Solangi said. “We are working with the Coast Guard, police, the sheriff’s office and Department of Marine Resources,” which is the enforcement agency along coastal Mississippi.
In a press release from NOAA, people do not realize that feeding dolphins caused the dolphins to become comfortable with approaching humans and going after baited hooks of fishermen.
“I think we need our fishermen friends to find these guys,” Solangi said. “Our best allies are shrimpers.”
According to Solangi, the Gulf region has already witnessed multiple dolphin deaths over the past two years because of the oil spill and the dead zone. Now, dolphins are being intentionally killed. Solangi said, “It’s heartbreaking.”