Outrage over a photo of a fisherman in Florida holding a young dolphin feet above the water was posted online this week, sparking an investigation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
As reported by News4JAX, Jacksonville Beach resident Kevin Beaugrand saw the photo posted to Instagram, where it was then shared with over 100,000 people on another account centered around surfing. It has since been deleted.
Beaugrand reported the photo to authorities, telling News4JAX, “I was immediately enraged…It’s a crime against nature.”
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Now, it’s being reported that the baby dolphin in the photo has died.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report shared with Dr. Quincy Gibson, an associate professor of coastal and marine biology at the University of North Florida, via the news outlet, said that a dolphin calf was found dead Wednesday, Aug. 23, under the bridge that crosses the Nassau Sound, where the photo appears to have been taken.
FWC believes that the dolphin found this week was the same one in the photo due to the shape of the dolphin, and in particular, the dorsal fin, as each dolphin’s dorsal fin is unique.
Gibson told the station how confident FWC is in the identification: “From what I’ve heard, everyone [at FWC] seems to be in agreement that it is [the same dolphin].”
She also explained that it’s possible that the dolphin was recently dead at the time the photo was taken, but it’s unlikely, as “When a dolphin does strand or is floating in the water deceased, it degrades really rapidly.”
In her opinion, based on the appearance of the dolphin and how the people in the photo are behaving, “it makes it seem like they did catch it…and it was potentially alive at that point.”
Taking a dolphin out of the water affects their ability to breathe and they can essentially be crushed by the weight of their own bodies. Gibson also noted that the baby dolphin seemed around one year old and would’ve been nursing at the time.
Under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, it is illegal to interfere with dolphins in any way, even if they are dead.
Both the FWC and the NOAA are still investigating, although no charges have been filed, and the identity of the person in the photo has not been released.
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