Harpooned dolphin Bojan

While conducting regular research activities in the northern Dalmatia and Kornati archipelago area, Blue World Institute staff encountered an injured dolphin at 11:30 am, today. The animal was found in near the island of Olib in the Vir Sea. The dolphin has a spear gun harpoon sticking out of its back. This metal object is about a meter long and embedded deep in the flesh of the animal in front of the dorsal fin. It is leaning towards the body of the animal under its own weight, at an angle of approximately 45. Despite being hurt, the dolphin was swimming and diving while travelling north, suggesting the injury was sustained relatively recently. Due to bad weather conditions, we were unable to come close to the dolphin to get a better look at the wound. However, it is clear that the movement of the animal is causing further damage as the harpoon is moving inside the wound. The survival of the animal is uncertain and probably depends on whether the foreign body will be removed or not.

The Blue World Institute catalogue of bottlenose dolphins contains photographs of more than 1000 individuals, taken in the past 25 years in the Croatian part of the Adriatic. Checking the available data allowed us to ascertain that this is one of the 20 most resident and best known dolphins of the Lošinj and Kvarnerić area. We encountered this animal for the first time on 16.06.2004 and named it Bojan. We have since come to know him very well because he was present in a total of 55 sightings. Due to the fact that he was never photographed with a calf of his own, we are assuming he is male. Bojan was last seen on 08.08.2013, between the islands Lošinj and Orjula, on which occasion the animal was not injured. He often spends time with other resident dolphins like Elmar, Duje and Meta.

Bottlenose dolphin hit with spear fishing harpoon, south Planik island, Adriatic sea, 24.8.2013 from Blue World Institute.

The position of the harpoon and the angle of entry suggest the animal was hit while showing nothing but trust, curiosity and friendliness. Dolphins sometimes approach boats to swim in the wake of a vessel moving through water and to have a better look at the people on board. This is when they are most vulnerable. Being so close to dolphins you could almost touch them is, to most people, a very memorable and special experience. Unfortunately, there seem to be people capable of exploiting their trust and using it to kill, injure or harass the animals intentionally. It is very likely a similar event took place this time as well. As a reminder, a dolphin was harpooned and killed in a similar way, probably while bow riding in the area of Budava bay on the southeast coast of Istra, between Valtura and Kavran. The harpoon entered the tissue from above, embedded itself between the ribs and caused internal injuries leading to death. The animal was alive and stranded when discovered so it is likely it took some time for death to occur.

Having in mind Bojan is injured, we ask of any potential observers to report his location and status in the following days (send a photo if you can) to our staff via phone (051 604666), fax (051 604668) or e-mail (info@plavi-svijet.org) so that we could respond and help the animal in time if necessary.

In Croatia, bottlenose dolphins are protected by The Nature Protection Act and people killing the animals are subject to a 35 000 kn fine. The incident has been reported to the Nature protection inspection so that actions could be taken to find the culprits.

Bottlenose dolphins have always been a symbol of joy and life in the sea. We believe that nobody, not even the person who shot this animal, could possibly believe that he would succeed in "capturing" a dolphin weighing 200 kilograms using a spear gun. Why was this wrongdoing necessary? Arrogance? Boredom? The need to show off on social networks?

These events confirm that education and raising awareness are the best response to irresponsible behaviour of individuals. Blue World Institute will therefore continue to conduct activities in cooperation with individuals and organisations focusing on the education and raising awareness about the preservation and protection of bottlenose dolphins and the sea. We invite you to send your own observations involving dolphins, whales and especially injured animals. We also urge you to support our work by adopting one of our dolphins (http://www.blue-world.org/en/get-involved/adopt-a-dolphin/adopt-online/) and join us in spreading information through social networks (www.facebook.com/blueworldinstitute) or join our educational programmes (http://www.blue-world.org/en/education/).

You can find more information about our organisation by visiting our web page www.blue-world.org, Facebook page (www.facebook.com/blueworldinstitute) or by calling us on this telephone number: 051 604666 and sending an e-mail to info@blue-world.org