Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Captain of charter boat fined for shooting near dolphin

An Orange Beach charter boat captain was fined and placed on probation for firing a shot near a bottlenose dolphin, a violation of federal law.

Don G. Walker, 51, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to the misdemeanor offense of unlawful "taking" of a marine mammal. The law defines that offense as "harassing, hunting, capturing or killing" a marine mammal or attempting to do so.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William Cassady sentenced Walker to one year of unsupervised probation. He also fined him $1,000 and ordered him to contribute $1,000 to the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., for a public education campaign the lab is developing to warn people not to feed dolphins.

Walker said he was not aware of the law.

told Cassady it was a "hard lesson learned."

"I promise you won't see or hear from me again," he told the judge.

Walker, a charter boat operator for 27 years, admitted to firing the shot into the Gulf of Mexico from his vessel, the Lady D, in June after a bottlenose dolphin tried to eat a fish off the line. Walker's attorney said he did not believe the bullet struck the dolphin, although the prosecutor said it wasn't known.

The case was brought against Walker after some of the customers made a complaint against him following the fishing trip.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"