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Dolphin found mutilated on Ship Island; others stabbed, shot

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Several dead dolphins have been found shot and mutilated in the Northern Gulf this week.

In addition to the shootings, detectives with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are reporting instances where the mammals have been stabbed and, in other cases, their jaws have been removed.

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport is working with the NOAA in this case.

"We responded to one dolphin from Alabama that had its tail cut off. We responded to another dolphin this morning from Ship Island that had its lower jaw cut off," said IMMS Executive Director Moby Solangi. "In the last week, we had a dolphin with a bullet hole in it. Something is going on. I think its important that everyone understand that this is not only cruel, but its also illegal. You could face serious fines or even go to jail."

According to NOAA, the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits, with certain exceptions, the "take" of marine mammals. That means "harassment, hunting, capturing, killing or collecting," or the attempt to do so. Violations can result in a civil penalty up to $11,000 as well as criminal penalties up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to a year or both.

"Solving these crimes is difficult for many reasons: it's a big ocean, marine mammals are consumed or decompose quickly in the water, and witnesses don't come forward or even exist," said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Paul Raymond. "It is important that we try because marine mammals are at the top of the food chain and, if their numbers are diminished, it could harm the ecosystem."

To report feeding or harassment of wild dolphins, call the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Enforcement Division at 1-800-853-1964.

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