Enforcement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the Southeast region of the United States: A review of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) provisioning, including recommendations for improved reporting and public education.
With humans frequenting and populating the coastlines more often, an increase in recreational boating, wild dolphin watching, discarding of by-catch and other marine related activities, human-dolphin interactions have become more common. Over the past 10 years, from September 2001 until September 2011, the National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement has received over 112 complaints of a citation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (reports of marine mammal harassment cases also fall under the Endangered Species Act). Only about 29% (38 out of 130) reported complaints resulted in a punishment: written warning, settlement, sent to General Council or a citation. Most of the complaints reported lacked sufficient evidence, resources or information for the agent or officer to fully investigate. As a result of this and other investigatory barriers, 71% of the cases were left unfounded or dismissed and closed without further investigation. Contributing to this statistic, there appears to be insufficient education of the general public regarding citations of the MMPA and the risks of illegal wild dolphin interactions, especially in areas where these marine mammals frequent. With greater exposure to the necessary information needed when reporting an illegal act or citation, it is hypothesized that law enforcement agents would be better able to investigate reports more thoroughly, possibly resulting in a higher percentage of cases being closed and completed. With more effective enforcement, aided by improved reporting from the general public, decreases in MMPA citations would seem possible.
Nicotri, Heather L., "Enforcement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the Southeast region of the United States: A review of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) provisioning, including recommendations for improved reporting and public education." (2011). Internship Reports (Restricted). 232.
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