Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don't Feed Wild Dolphins - PSA Launches!

For the last few years, Dolphin Research Center has worked with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and several other government agencies and private organizations on a public service announcement alerting the public to the dangers that wild dolphins face when people feed them. We are thrilled to announce that the PSA has now launched and we are eager to help spread the word.

The PSA reminds viewers that feeding wild dolphins is not only illegal, it is harmful to dolphins, even causing some to rely on begging for food from humans, upsetting their natural role as hunters and altering their diets. Feeding wild dolphins is a threat to humans, too. Dolphins sometimes become aggressive when seeking food and are known to bite when teased.

“Feeding wild dolphins triggers a domino effect of harmful behaviors as dolphins learn to associate people with food and free handouts,” said Stacey Horstman, bottlenose dolphin conservation coordinator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “We are at a point where we honestly need to change our behavior so we don’t change theirs, and we hope this PSA provides a compelling plea for the public’s help.”

The health and welfare of wild dolphins is severely compromised when humans feed them. Human-fed dolphins change their normal wild behavior and run a greater risk of being injured by boats, becoming entangled in fishing gear, or ingesting dangerous items such as fishing hooks and contaminated food. Some dolphins have become so accustomed to receiving routine handouts, they are now taking fishing bait and catches from recreational and commercial fishermen. In one recent instance off the Florida panhandle, a bottlenose dolphin distracted by taking fish from a recreational fisherman was attacked and eaten by a large shark.

Many scientists have observed illegal dolphin feeding throughout the southeast, especially since NOAA’s Fisheries Service prohibited feeding of wild marine mammals in 1993 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Wild dolphin experts were also alerted to this problem through routine complaints from concerned citizens viewing the illegal behavior, and most recently through new videos posted to YouTube showing people feeding wild dolphins off Florida and South Carolina.

“Scientists have known for years that dolphin feeding was a problem in certain hotspot areas in the southeast,” said Laura Engleby, NOAA’s Fisheries Service southeast marine mammal branch chief. “But the citizen complaints and self-implicating Internet media has shocked our experts and further validates that feeding is an increasing and more wide-spread problem than we thought.”

Feeding and harassing wild marine mammals is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and can result in severe penalties with fines up to $20,000 and one year in jail for the most serious violations.

The PSA can be viewed at, which also has more information on dolphin conservation and guidelines for viewing dolphins responsibly in the wild.

You can help wild dolphins, too. Please share this information with your friends and family!


Travel Blog said...

this is a great article reminding us the effects of what we are doing. I love sea creatures very much and I'm enjoying feeding them specially dolphins. But this article is right we are putting dolphins and other wild animals in danger. So lets help protect them. Hope to see more post like this.