Tourists may spend upwards of a hundred dollars to see dolphins, but some fishermen wish they'd never see them again.
Tourists may spend upwards of a hundred dollars to see dolphins, but some fishermen wish they’d never see them again.
The playful marine residents have tourists scrambling to catch a glimpse like never before. Dolphin tour boats on the Destin Harbor take up to five trips a day with anywhere between 80 to 150 people each trip.
“I make my living off chasing dolphins,” said Roy DiVencenti, captain of the dolphin tour boat the Hannah Marie. “(Dolphin tours) are alive and well here in Destin.”
Fishermen, however, are not as crazy about the aquatic mammals.
“They suck,” said Curt Gwin, captain of the Only Way. “They’re good for dolphin cruises. They make money for them. But they take away money from us (fishermen).”
Common complaints from local fishermen include the dolphins ruining their fishing spots, eating fish right off their hooks and making it nearly impossible for them to catch fish. The clever animals appear to have adapted to the heavily-trafficked Gulf waters by learning to use humans’ fishing habits to their own advantage, following charter boats to their most heavily fished areas and depleting their fish.
“They make our job a lot harder,” said Allen Staples, captain of the 100 Proof. “They’re too smart for their own good.”
One thing that both fishermen and dolphin boat captains can agree on is that the local dolphin population seems to be increasing. Krista Stouffer, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Gulfarium, estimates the dolphin population in the Gulf of Mexico to be about 40,000.
With those kinds of numbers, it’s clear that, love them or hate them, dolphins won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. And Emily Cox, who helps operate the Southern Star dolphin cruise and whose father owns the Sweet Jody, said that’s how it should be.
“They’re the cutest little monsters,” she said. “But they’re part of our history, part of Destin. You have to respect that this is their home.”
VIOLENCE AGAINST DOLPHINS ON THE RISE
There have been a suspicious number of dolphin deaths on the Emerald Coast in recent years. Here are just a few of them:
February 17th, 2013 : A dolphin washed up dead in Fort Morgan, Ala. with a four-inch hole in its head thought to be caused by a gunshot.
November 2013: A pregnant dolphin was shot in the lung and washed up in Miramar Beach.
December 13th, 2014: A bottlenose dolphin washed up in Orange Beach, Ala. after apparently having been killed by an arrow. A juvenile was found to be responsible.
May 9th, 2016: A dolphin with a bullet in its shoulder was discovered dead on Okaloosa Island.
Harassing, harming, killing or feeding wild dolphins is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Violations can be prosecuted either civilly or criminally, and are punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation, according to the NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement.