A 19-year-old angler in Florida pulled a baby dolphin out of the water on Sunday and posed with it, thinking it would make for a great Instagram pic. Days later, a baby dolphin was found dead in the same area, and investigators believe it's the same one. (See image below, posted by TMZ.)
"From what I've heard, everyone seems to be in agreement that it is [the same dolphin] and you can tell," said Dr. Quincy Gibson, a marine biologist who works with the University of North Florida's Dolphin Research Program, via Local12, after comparing the Instagram photo to an image of the dead bottlenose dolphin. She said it's apparent by the dorsal fin, which have a shape that is unique to each dolphin. "And so the shape matches the one in the photo where the dolphin's being held, so highly likely."
Although it's not certain whether or not the dolphin was alive when the teen picked it up, he insists it was dead while investigators believe it was alive.
"I think it's highly likely that it died after but there is a very small chance that it was deceased recently when they picked it up in the water," said Gibson. "But based off of the reports that I've heard and the photo and the way that the people are behaving in the photo, it makes it seem like they did catch it and it was potentially alive at that point."
The teen, who says he didn't know what he did was wrong, has since gotten death threats and has publicly apologized.
Experts said removing dolphins from the buoyancy of the water can result in them being crushed by the weight of their own bodies.
Experienced fishermen like Anthony walker said they thought people knew not to harass dolphins.
It's against the Federal Marina Mammal Protection Act to interfere with dolphins, even if they're dead. According to Action News Jax, those who violate the act could face fines of up to $100,000 and/or up to a year in jail.
The angler in the incident said he had since received death threats and apologized publicly in an exclusive interview with Action News Jax, saying "I'm sorry, and I didn't mean to hurt anyone, and I did not hurt the dolphin. I wasn't aware that I wasn't supposed to touch it, and I would never do it again."
From Action News Jax: "If you encounter injured or deceased marine animals, you can call the NOAA Fisheries hotline at (877) WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343)."