MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There is now a $54,000 reward being offered for information leading to the person or persons responsible for the recent deaths of two dolphins, on two different Florida beaches.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had offered a $20,000 reward last month. The federal agency announced Monday that it was combining that reward with another $34,000 pledged by animal rights groups.

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Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discovered a dead dolphin off Naples in southwest Florida in February. The animal was fatally wounded from what appeared to be a bullet or sharp object. The same week, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge experts recovered a dolphin with a bullet in its left side along Pensacola Beach.

Bottlenose Dolphins (Source: AP)

Biologists believe these cases may stem from people feeding wild dolphins. Dolphins fed by people learn to associate people and boats with food, which can put them in harmful situations such as fatal boat strikes and fishing gear entanglements. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission urges people not to feed wild dolphins.

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NOAA is also investigating the death of another dolphin found off Captiva Island in May 2019. The animal also had a fatal puncture wound to its head.  That investigation is ongoing and also offers a reward for information.

Since 2002, at least 29 dolphins have been stranded with evidence of being shot by guns or arrows, or impaled with objects such as fishing spears.

Dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.  A fine of up to $100,000 may be issued to persons who harass, hunt, kill or feed wild dolphins and they could get jail time. A Kansas man was recently fined $1,250 for feeding a dolphin while on vacation in Florida, according to NOAA.

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NOAA officials are asking anyone with information to call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.