A shocking image depicting a person holding a dolphin several feet out of the water has ignited a wave of outrage both online and offline.
The incident, which reportedly took place in North Florida, has not only angered the public but also triggered investigations by both state and federal agencies.
The image in question was shared on Instagram and subsequently circulated through various platforms, drawing the attention of concerned citizens and environmental advocates.
While the exact location of the incident remains unclear, the repercussions of such actions are all too apparent. A marine biologist who caught sight of the photo expressed immediate horror, highlighting the fact that interacting with or feeding wild dolphins is strictly prohibited by federal law.
According to reports from Jacksonville Beach resident Kevin Beaugrand, the distressing image garnered widespread attention after being posted on a surfing-related Instagram account. The photograph, depicting a dolphin held out of the water, was met with intense backlash. Beaugrand, an avid surfer himself, was among those who were deeply disturbed by the image. He emphasized that the incident amounts to a “crime against nature,” underscoring the gravity of the issue at hand.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration enforces the Marine Mammals Protection Act, which expressly forbids activities that harass or disturb dolphins and other marine mammals in their natural habitat. Feeding or harassing these creatures can lead to disruptions in their behavioral patterns and cause physical harm. Experts have pointed out that the act of lifting a dolphin out of the water can have severe repercussions on the animal’s health.
Dr. Quinton White, a marine science professor at Jacksonville University, weighed in on the matter, explaining that hoisting a dolphin out of the water puts tremendous stress on the creature, potentially exacerbating any existing health issues. He noted that marine mammals depend on buoyancy to breathe and that removing them from their natural environment can severely hinder their ability to draw breath. The tragic consequences of such actions are often not immediately evident, as animals may seem fine upon release but struggle to readapt to their aquatic environment, ultimately succumbing to the stress.
Taking prompt action, Beaugrand reported the photo to relevant authorities, triggering investigations by both NOAA and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The implications of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act are substantial, with potential civil penalties reaching approximately $34,000, alongside the possibility of criminal fines and imprisonment for up to a year. The agencies are working to determine the identities of those involved and the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Despite efforts to engage with the person responsible for the act through Instagram, no response has been received yet. The incident underscores the need for heightened awareness and education about the importance of respecting marine life and the laws in place to protect these animals. Dr. White offered valuable advice for individuals who encounter distressed marine mammals, urging them to contact Fish and Wildlife authorities to ensure the appropriate actions are taken.
In light of this alarming event, NOAA has encouraged anyone with relevant information to come forward by contacting their Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.
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This article by Trinity Sparke was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 24 August 2023.