Florida Wildlife Officials Investigate After Disturbing Photo of Baby Dolphin Surfaces

Florida wildlife officials are currently investigating a troubling photo that was posted on social media. The picture depicts a man holding a baby dolphin out of the water, presumably for a photograph. Though the identity of the man remains unknown and no charges have been filed against him, it is believed that the photo was taken under a bridge that crosses the Nassau Sound.

Shortly after the photo gained attention, a dolphin calf was discovered dead in the same area. UNF Associate Professor Quincy Gibson stated that everyone at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) agrees that the deceased dolphin is the same one seen in the Instagram picture. This correlation has raised concerns among the public.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it is unlawful to feed or harass dolphins under the Marine Mammals Protection Act. This law is in place to prevent disruptions to their natural behavior and to ensure their safety in the wild. Jacksonville University marine science professor Quinton White further explained that holding a dolphin out of water can cause harm, as dolphins rely on buoyancy to breathe. Removing them from their natural environment makes it difficult for them to draw breath.

Associate Professor Gibson suggested that if the dolphin in the photo was already deceased, it would indicate that it could not have been dead for long. Dolphins degrade rapidly when stranded or floating in the water after death. Gibson’s analysis, along with the behavior of the individuals in the photo, suggests that the dolphin may have been caught and potentially alive at the time.

NOAA and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are jointly conducting an investigation into the matter. They encourage anyone with relevant information to reach out to NOAA’s Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.