In Jacksonville Beach, Florida, an Instragram photo of a Florida angler holding a dolphin out of the water has prompted outrage as an investigation by state and federal agencies commenced. Most viewers saw the photo posted on Sunday as a man harassing a wild animal which is against federal law.
According to News4, the photo garnered more than 100,000 shared views on a popular surfing account. The photo has since been deleted. It had been a surfer who spoke out and stated he was “immediately outraged” when he saw the photo calling it a “crime against nature.”
Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, feeding or harassing dolphins is illegal, and it is a crime to disturb their behavior patterns or injure them. Holding a dolphin out of the water could be injurious to the animal. Most likely the dolphin had already been weak or ill, and to pick it up out of the water would have only led to more stress for the animal.
It is not known if the dolphin survived, but if someone spots a sick or injured marine animal, it is best to notify Florida Fish and Wildlife who have experienced and knowledgeable personnel able to legally investigate the situation.
According to Yahoo News, the 19-year-old who posed with the dolphin has since come forward and said the incident occurred at the Nassau Sound, located off of Amelia Island, and admitted he did pick it up out of the water and falsely proclaimed he had caught it. He then stated the dolphin had been dead on the shore, and after the photos, he put the dolphin back where he found it, not realizing he had done something wrong.
If prosecuted, violators of the Marine Mammal Protection Act could face civil penalties up to about $34,000 or criminal fines which includes up to a year in prison.
Anyone with information is asked to contact NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 800.853.1964. An investigation continues.