NORTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (KXAN) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking swimmers and boaters to stay away from an “aggressive” dolphin off North Padre Island.
NOAA said Thursday the dolphin is used to humans and is showing “dangerous behavior,” and now the situation is “threatening both human safety and the animal’s life.”
Biologists told NOAA the dolphin has been separating children from their parents in the water as well as swimming pets from their owners.
The dolphin began acting aggressively because of human interaction. People were discouraged for over a year from feeding, swimming or interacting with the dolphin, but the warnings weren’t enough, NOAA said.
The dolphin is so familiar with humans it now looks for people, boats and any form of interaction, according to NOAA. The dolphin has been wounded by boats, so there’s more concern now for the dolphin’s safety because of Memorial Day weekend.
What to do if you spot the dolphin
Avoid the dolphin at all costs, NOAA said, but if it sees your boat, it will likely swim close to it.
NOAA advised boaters to keep moving slowly away while maintaining course and speed. Keep hands and feet inside the boat. Don’t try to pet the dolphin. It will eventually leave your boat alone once you’ve moved far enough out of its area.
If you’re swimming and see the dolphin, get out of the water as fast as you can. While the dolphin may seem friendly, NOAA warned it is a wild animal with unpredictable behavior.
Law enforcement plans to increase patrols over the weekend. Any interaction with the dolphin is considered harassment and illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Those who don’t leave the dolphin alone could face up to $100,000 in fines and up to a year in jail per violation. You can report any violations to NOAA’s Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.