Port Elizabeth – Researchers from the Bayworld Oceanarium in Nelson Mandela Bay have determined that a female bottlenose dolphin found stranded on Maitland Beach on Wednesday was shot.
The adult female was in a healthy condition and was lactating, which indicates that she most likely had a calf at the time of her death.
The dolphin’s carcass was retrieved from Maitland Beach on Wednesday by Bayworld and a necropsy was done on Thursday by Ms Isabelle Callealta, who is currently working on her PhD comparing the health of bottlenose and humpback dolphins.
“During today’s necropsy and health assessment, we recovered a single bullet. The bullet penetrated both lungs and was found lodged against a rib bone,” said Callealta.
Nelson Mandela Bay was dubbed the Bottlenose Dolphin capital of the world in April this year by tourism authorities, who announced that the city would be hosting a dolphin festival each year to celebrate the international popularity of the species.
The bullet that was removed from the dolphin carcass. (Bayworld)
“Bayworld has received a number of reports from Seaview and Beachview residents in the past, claiming they had observed fishermen shooting at seals and dolphins from commercial vessels,” the researchers said in a Facebook post yesterday.
“We have also retrieved bullets from a number of stranded seal carcasses over the past few years.”
It is common knowledge that there is conflict between marine mammals and fisheries at sea, but the extent of this is unknown and difficult to determine.
“Although fisheries interaction is the most likely cause of the death of the dolphin, it does not exclude the possibility of other scenarios,” said Callealta.
While bottlenose dolphins are not on the endangered list, they are protected under the Marine Living Resources Act, which clearly prohibits the killing, or attempted killing, of whales and dolphins.
The dolphin stranded on Maitland Beach in Port Elizabeth. (Bayworld)