GULFPORT -- A commercial boat captain from Bayou La Batre, Ala., has been fined $2,500 for shooting a bottlenose dolphin in the Mississippi Sound in the summer of 2012.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Roper sentenced Brent Buchanan in federal court on Monday.
The judge also ordered Buchanan to perform 200 hours of community service on marine and environmental projects and gave him three years of probation with three months of home confinement. He also was required to pay a $25 court assessment.
Buchanan pleaded guilty on a misdemeanor charge in December.
Court papers show the shooting occurred in waters near Jackson County.
John Dowdy, criminal division chief for the U.S. Attorney's Southern District of Mississippi, said he didn't know why Buchanan shot the dolphin.
Marine mammals are protected by federal laws. It is illegal to take them without a permit and illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill them or to try to harm them.
Buchanan was a co-owner and captain of the Seaweed 2000, a commercial shrimping and fishing vessel, when he shot the dolphin in July or August of 2012, Dowdy said. The vessel fishes in coastal waters off the shores of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Investigators had received a rash of reports of dead bottlenose dolphins washing ashore in several locations, Dowdy said. The investigation linked Buchanan to one of those shootings, he said. Dowdy was charged in a bill of information Dec. 5.
Buchanan accepted a plea agreement Dec. 10.
He faced maximum penalties of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
News of Buchanan's prosecution hopefully will serve as a deterrent to prevent others from harming dolphins or other mammals, Dowdy said.
"It makes no sense to hurt a dolphin," he said.
Dolphins, porpoises and whales are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement is investigating other possible dolphin shootings since 2012. Anyone with information is asked to call NOAA at 800-853-1964.