The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) first received reports of a dead dolphin on Fort Myers Beach. It was then recovered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC).
The dolphin was a lactating female that appears to have died from trauma inflicted at or near the time of death. It is suspected that dolphin was in a begging position when it died – a position not natural to dolphins other than when they are being fed illegally – according to a statement by NOAA.
A necropsy conducted on the dolphin revealed it had been impaled by a "spear-like object" above its right eye while it was alive, per the statement.
Dolphins have been the victim of graphic deaths in past years, including being shot by guns and impaled by arrows. At least 27 dolphins have been "shot by guns or arrows, or impaled with sharp objects" since 2002, according to NOAA.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits any "harassment, hunting, capturing, collecting or killing" of dolphins, according to NOAA. Any person who violates the act could face up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail.
NOAA encourages anyone with information regarding the recent incident to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964.