US Officials Are Offering A Reward For Anyone That Can Solve A Dolphin Murder Mystery


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

The dead dolphin was about to give birth as it was shot and killed. NOAA/Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

It’s not every day you see a post from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that offers a monetary bounty for the needless killing of a wild animal, but hey, it is 2018.

The post, uploaded a while back but updated on August 30, tells the tale of a pregnant dolphin that someone apparently shot, resulting in it and its unborn calf’s death. Worst of all, the calf was just about to be born, having gestated for the full 12 months.


There is now an offer of a $13,000 reward for any credible information that leads to the identification and/or prosecution of the perpetrator(s).

The common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) was found dead on a beach in Waveland, Mississippi, back in April. It was subsequently recovered by the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS), which deals with such matters. That’s when the gunshot wound, still containing the small caliber bullet, was found. It appears the shot pierced the dolphin’s lung.

“NOAA officials seek information from anyone who may have details about this incident. Please call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or the Slidell, LA, Enforcement Field Office at 985-643-6232,” the post notes. “Include your name and contact information when calling enforcement to be eligible for the reward,” it says, adding: “tips may be left anonymously.”

Based on older news reports, it appears the reward has been raised slightly over time, from $11,500 to $13,000. It’s being funded by a wide range of organizations, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare to the Humane Society of the United States. Some private donors have chipped in too.


Horrifically, this isn’t even an isolated incident, with the number of violent acts on dolphins in the Northern Gulf region increasing in recent times. Since 2002, 24 dolphins have been stranded, all with evidence of having been shot by a gun or a bow. Some of them have been impaled. Shockingly, 68 percent of these incidents have taken place in the last eight years alone.

As reported by The New York Times, a 2014 incident involved a juvenile shooting a dolphin with a hunting arrow, after a $24,000 reward was posted.

NOAA explains that whether you are harassing, harming, killing or even just feeding wild dolphins, you are in breach of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Exceptions are only given to Alaska natives (for sustenance reasons), scientific research endeavors, and in any clearly mandated effort to improve the survival or recovery of a certain species.

Violations of the act can lead to fines of up to $100,000 and a year in jail, for each violation committed. It’s unsurprising, then, that the person that killed this pregnant dolphin hasn’t owned up to their crime. Hopefully, this reward will help bring vital information to light.


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