What can you do?
Bottlenose dolphins are currently listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN red list, which means that although there are threats to local populations of dolphins, overall their species is abundant worldwide.
However, bottlenose dolphins do suffer negative consequences from interaction with humans. Most people are unaware that it is illegal to approach or interact with wild dolphins within 50 yards, according to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972. This means it is illegal to attempt to swim with, touch, or feed dolphins. Feeding wild dolphins is especially dangerous, as you are disrupting their natural behavior, changing their migration patterns, exposing them to potential propeller strikes and entanglement in fishing gear, and preventing younger dolphins from learning the natural hunting techniques that they need to survive.
If you are prosecuted for violating the MMPA, you could face up to a year in prison and fines of more than $11,000. If you are viewing dolphins while enjoying our beautiful Emerald Coast waters on a water vessel, keep your viewing time to less than 30 minutes so that you do not disrupt their natural behavior. If you are renting jet skis, paddleboards, or boats, make sure you are not approaching or chasing down groups of dolphins – this could cause separation between moms and calves. We at Gulfarium want you to admire these beautiful animals, but always make sure to give them the distance and respect that they need and deserve.
When selecting a charter boat, eco-tour, or dolphin sight-seeing company, be sure to ask whether they obey the laws of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Some areas offer a Dolphin Smart accreditation program to promote responsible stewardship of wild dolphins in coastal waterways. Selecting an accredited company is a great choice!
For more information on the Marine Mammal Protection Act and why it’s important to avoid feeding wild dolphins, please visit here.