Scales of justice: How phone footage earned a fine for fisherman feeding dolphins

A nearby popular attraction that allows dolphin feeding has led to a man thinking he could do the same from his boat, landing him in hot water with the law.

Apr 13, 2023, updated Apr 13, 2023
Bev Lambert has been volunteering at the Tin Can Bay Dolphin Centre for 12 years.(ABC Wide Bay: Jess Lodge)

Bev Lambert has been volunteering at the Tin Can Bay Dolphin Centre for 12 years.(ABC Wide Bay: Jess Lodge)

Video taken by the man’s brother show him cutting a mullet into pieces and feeding the wild dolphins from his boat at Snapper Creek in Tin Can Bay.

A member of the public saw the distributed footage online and informed Department of Environment and Science (DES) officials who launched an investigation.

During their inquiries the two men told wildlife officers they were not aware it was an offence to feed wild dolphins as they knew people could pay to feed dolphins at nearby Barnacles Café, also in Tin Can Bay.

Senior wildlife officer Tina Ball said strict conditions applied to the feeding activities at Barnacles Café, including the type and the amount of fish the dolphins can be fed, and how long the fish can be frozen for to ensure freshness.

“This is a regulated activity overseen by the department and ensures the dolphins don’t receive their daily food intake at Barnacles Café and continue to hunt for fish in the wild,” she said.

The man’s action, while seemingly well-intentioned, has landed him a $431 fine, much lower than the maximum fine a court can impose for feeding a wild dolphin, which sits at $11,500.

Ball said people should not to attempt to touch or feed a marine mammal, unless it was part of an authorised dolphin feeding program.

She said unregulated feeding of wild dolphins increased the risk of health issues from being fed fish that is not fresh or part of their natural diet, such as pilchards.

“There are other risks that people must be aware of, including dolphins associating boats and people with free food,” she said.

“This can put wild dolphins in danger of being struck by vessels or becoming entangled in fishing gear if they begin to approach boats for food.

“Hand-feeding wild dolphins can also interfere with their natural hunting behaviour and their natural pod behaviour.”





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