AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (WJXT) – A baby dolphin is believed to be dead after a man in Florida picked it up for an Instagram photo.
The photo showing the dolphin being held above water is drawing the attention of law enforcement.
Two marine biologists said it is hard to determine if the dolphin was alive when the photo was taken just by looking at the image. However, if the dolphin was dead, they said it wouldn’t have been for long.
Dr. Quincy Gibson, with the University of North Florida’s Dolphin Research Program, is usually looped in by Florida wildlife investigators when a dead dolphin is discovered. Gibson said she was notified of this dolphin’s death Wednesday when what appears to be a 1-year-old male calf was reported dead by a biologist in Nassau County in the same area the photo was posted.
In a new photo taken by investigators, the dolphin is seen bloated and bleeding around its mouth, which Gibson said is part of the decomposition process.
Gibson said the dolphins in the photos appear to be the same one due to the similarity between the dorsal fins. She said each dolphin’s dorsal fin is unique.
Amidst social media backlash, the person seen holding the dolphin in the photo has posted multiple times that it was an accident and that it may have been dead already as a bycatch that made its way to shore.
“I think it’s highly likely that it died after but there is a very small chance that it was deceased recently when they picked it up in the water, but based on the reports that I’ve heard, and the photo, and the way that the people are behaving in the photo, it makes it seem like they did catch it and it was potentially alive at that point,” Gibson said.
Experts said removing dolphins from the buoyancy of the water can result in them being crushed by the weight of their own bodies.
Anthony Walker, an experienced fisherman, said he thought people knew not to mess with dolphins.
“When you break the law, you’ve got consequences,” he said. “That’s what the law’s made for.”
It is against the Federal Marina Mammal Protection Act to interfere with dolphins, even if they’re dead.
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