A dolphin died on a Texas beach after authorities say people harassed her and rode her in the ocean.
The death of the dolphin on Quintana Beach led to a reminder from the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network not to interfere with stranded dolphins.
The non-profit group said the dolphin was stranded alive on Sunday, April 10, and beach goers pushed it back to sea. Some of them reportedly swam with and rode the sick animal.
“She ultimately stranded and was further harassed by a crowd of people on the beach, where she later died before rescuers could arrive on scene,” the group said.
Those who harass wild dolphins are subjected to fines of up to $11,000 and jail time of a year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
“We encourage you to observe them from a distance of at least 50 yards,” NOAA said.
NOAA announced in July 2021 that Texas Parks and Wildlife officials, as well as its own personnel, would increase patrolling of North Padre Island due to the harassment of a dolphin. That dolphin, NOAA said, was the victim of people swimming with, riding, jumping on and petting.
When people interact with dolphins, McClatchy News reported at the time, the animals become comfortable and are more likely to approach things it associates with humans, such as boats. This could lead dolphins to being hit by boats or getting stuck in fishing equipment.
“We view this as a human behavior problem,” TMMSN said last year, McClatchy News reported. “We know if people change their behavior, the dolphin’s behavior will also change, and we can prevent future injuries to people and the dolphin.”
If you see a stranded dolphin, the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network encourages you to call 1-800-962-6625 for guidance on what to do before authorities arrive.
To report harassment of marine mammals, contact NOAA’s Fisheries’ Enforcement hotline at 1-800-853-1964.