Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Be Good to Our Dolphin Friends!

AJ reminds everyone that if you want to have a great time interacting with dolphins, visit Dolphin Research Center. Don't jump in the water with wild dolphins!

Summertime means that many of you who live or take vacations in coastal areas spend a lot more time out on boats for fishing, diving, snorkeling, or other recreational activities. It’s always a thrill when you’re out on the ocean and a pod of dolphins swims near your boat.

It’s also often a temptation. You want to get closer for pictures. Maybe you think you could feed them from your bait bucket to coax them closer. In some cases, you might think, “What’s the harm of swimming with them?”

Plenty. Swimming with wild dolphins in the United States is not only illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), but also risky with the potential of harm to both you and the dolphins!

Dolphins are powerful, animals. Playful? Sure! However, when they play with each other, they often play very rough with lots of rolling, tail-swatting, and raking of their teeth. They’ll sometimes pin each other to the ocean floor and engage in other behaviors that won’t hurt another dolphins, but that could cause a human serious injury – or worse!

How can closer interaction harm the dolphins? There are many ways. Feeding wild dolphins not only lures them closer to boats where there is greater risk of injury from propollers, but it also teaches them to be beggars instead of efficient hunters. Then, when denied food, they can become aggressive. Plus, if a female dolphin learns to take food from humans, that’s what her baby learns, too, and then the calf misses out on necessary hunting skills.

When they lose their natural caution around humans, they can also be hurt by unscrupulous people who pour liquids or pop foods down their blowholes – blocking their breathing passages!

You also don’t know what natural behavior you could be interrupting such as foraging, resting, nursing, or mating.

By following a few simple practices, you can enjoy the thrilling experience of viewing dolphins in the open oceans, while keeping it safe for yourself and your dolphin friends.

1) Stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins. Put your engine in neutral, or turn it off and drift to minimize noise, and the risk of dolphins getting cut by your propeller.
2) Move away if dolphins exhibit signs of distress or disturbance.
3) Don’t swim, feed or touch wild dolphins!
4) Teach others to also respect these amazing animals.

Enjoy your summer!