The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network warned beachgoers not to 'interact' with such stranded marine life.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on April 19, 2022. It has since been updated.
The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network is pointing to a sick dolphin's recent death as a reminder for beachgoers not to "interact" with such stranded marine life. The non-profit took to Facebook on Tuesday to share photos of a beached dolphin on Quintana Beach, on the Texas Gulf Coast, and warn the public about the repercussions of crowding the mammal. One picture shared by the environmental conservation organization shows several people surrounding the animal while one person bends down and puts their hand near her mouth. Another photograph features the dolphin lying on the shore of the beach while people stand around her.
"The dolphin in these photos stranded alive on Quintana Beach, TX on Sunday evening and was reportedly pushed back to the sea where beachgoers attempted to swim with and ride the sick animal," the TMMSN said in a statement alongside the photos. "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. This type of harassment causes undue stress to wild dolphins, is dangerous for the people who interact with them, and is illegal - punishable by fines and jail time if convicted."
The organization urged beachgoers to immediately call for help if they come across stranded marine mammals. "If a live dolphin or whale strands in Texas, please DO NOT PUSH the animal back to sea, do not attempt to swim or interact with them, do not crowd them, and immediately call 1-800-9MAMMAL (1-800-962-6625) for guidance on how to help support the animal until the TMMSN rescue response arrives," the statement said. It concluded by saluting the person that reported the stranded dolphin, and thanking the Quintana Beach County Park for its prompt response.
Addressing the distressing incident on Facebook, the Quintana Beach County Park wrote: "This was a tragedy. Park staff was called to assist in keeping the public away from the dolphin until rescuers could arrive from Galveston. Unfortunately it was a retrieval, not a rescue. The animal was taken for necropsy to try and determine the cause of the stranding." According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Marine Mammal Protection Act bans "feeding, attempting to feed, and harassing marine mammals in the wild."
Violating the MMPA can result in an $11,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
Heartbroken Facebook users flooded the TMMSN post with comments expressing their anger over the incident. "This is so heartbreaking and infuriating. I feel like this situation may have started out with great intentions but quickly evolved into a nightmare for this baby. Had this dolphin gotten the help she needed from trained and licensed professionals maybe it would have survived," wrote Meagan Jo Lauve.
"While their intentions may have started out on the right track most likely alcohol and stupidity won out the contest here. It is widely stated that you should call a game warden if you can’t remember the number or get the number to the marine mammal rescue. Game wardens cell numbers are listed on TPWD page and it often list their cell number by county. They can and will get the proper people out to help these majestic creatures. Just because you can pay to swim with dolphins in captivity doesn’t mean that you should try and swim with dolphins in the wild. They are not the same. Every single person pictured in this photo should be cited or arrested for their role in this animals death that was unnecessary. This baby may have had a better chance at survival had they left her all alone and never even approached her."
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network