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‘Hard lesson learned’

FEB. 20 — An Alabama charter boat captain was sentenced last week to one year of probation and fined for shooting at a bottlenose dolphin in the Gulf of Mexico last summer.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Mobile, Ala., charged the man, who is 51, of unlawfully taking a marine mammal, alleging that he shot at a dolphin that was following his fishing boat, the Lady D, and tried to eat a fish from his line, Alabama’s Press-Register newspaper reports. The man admitted that he fired his gun at the dolphin. It is unknown whether the dolphin was struck by a bullet. The incident happened June 10, 2006.

The man, who has reportedly operated a charter fishing business for nearly three decades, was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, the report says. He must also contribute $1,000 to the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., to benefit a public education campaign the lab is developing.

“Hard lesson learned,” the man said in court, according to the news report. “I promise you won’t see or hear from me again.”

The man’s attorney said he was not aware that harassing a dolphin is prohibited under federal law. “I’ve spent 35 years on the Gulf, and I didn’t know that,” the attorney says in the report.

Jason Fell