What are the threats to the well being of dolphins? What can we humans do?
Dangers to dolphins increase when we remain ignorant about how they live, and how human activities impact them.
The more we know about dolphin biology and the threats facing dolphins in the wild, the better we can protect them.
Dangers to dolphins increase when we remain ignorant about threats from human activities.
Education is important. Children can learn about how dolphins live, and how our actions on land can affect dolphins in the sea. Adults need information about specific actions to save individual dolphins, to save dolphin populations, and about species conservation.
From the start, our studies have tried to gain the knowledge that would allow us to aid conservation efforts , not only for dolphins in Sarasota Bay, but for dolphin populations around the world.
Human activities sometimes endanger the lives of wild dolphins. Dolphins may get tangled in fishing gear, or with a rope from a crab trap, or even in human clothing.
Dolphins have been tangled in fishing gear, or with rope from a crab trap, or even in human clothing.
If the situation threatens the dolphin’s life, permission will be obtained from the National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct a dolphin rescue.
Usually with the help of volunteers and staff from Mote Marine Laboratory, the rescue effort involves briefly capturing the dolphin so it can be disentangled, examined by a veterinarian, and released.
If the dolphin requires more treatment, it will be taken to a rehabilitation facility, usually the Mote Marine Lab Dolphin and Whale Hospital.
If the dolphin recovers, it is released into the wild near where it was first found. The movements of the dolphin are monitored when possible to determine if the rehabilitation was successful.
Public Outreach and Education
Public awareness is crucial if we are to save wild dolphins.
Direct threats to wild dolphins come from humans feeding wild dolphins and from fishing gear that can entangle or otherwise harm dolphins.
Our outreach efforts are designed to inform the public about the threat, and we help gather public support to reduce it.
We also use education to help youth appreciate the uniqueness of dolphins.
The billboard in the picture says it all. It’s illegal to feed wild dolphins. And it can cause a dolphin’s death.
Dive deeper. See more information about dolphin-human interactions
The message is important, because feeding wild dolphins can be harmful to their health.
Dolphins are born to be hunters, not beggars. When people feed them, it can teach the dolphin bad habits. Mother dolphins that beg may fail to teach their young how to forage for food.
Sometimes, begging for food becomes a way of survival for dolphins, and they become dependent on human handouts. Begging dolphins often are not healthy.
Dolphins may lose their fear of people and become less wary while begging. Sometimes, begging dolphins are hurt when they stray near boat propellers. In at least one case, a dolphin taking discarded fish from anglers was attacked and killed by a large shark.
Sometimes, hanging around boats causes a dolphin to be tangled in fishing hooks and line, and this can be fatal.
People are at risk too. It is not uncommon for begging dolphins to get aggressive when they don’t receive the hand-out they expect. People have been bitten by begging dolphins. People have also been fined for feeding and harassing the animals.
You can help dolphins by educating others. Many people do not know about the laws that protect dolphins. Feeding dolphins breaks the law.
By sharing this information with your friends and boaters, you are helping protect dolphins.It is against the law to feed or harass wild dolphins. For the dolphins’ safety and yours, please DON’T FEED, SWIM WITH, TOUCH/PET, OR HARASS WILD DOLPHINS in any other way. Closely interacting with dolphins is harmful to them because it reduces their wariness to people and vessels, and increases their risk of injury or death by boat strikes or fishing gear entanglements.
- Never feed wild dolphins – it’s harmful and illegal.
- Reuse or share leftover bait.
- Reel in your line if dolphins approach it.
- Change locations if dolphins show interest in your bait or catch.
- Release your catch quietly, away from dolphins.
- Check your gear and tackle: prevent breakage and lost gear.
- Use circle hooks and hooks that corrode.
- Stay at least 50 yards away from wild dolphins.
- Don’t discard your fishing line overboard. Recycle it instead.
- Stash your trash: wild dolphins might eat pieces of it.
- Do not closely interact with wild dolphins, this includes but is not limited to touching/petting or swimming with wild dolphins, or attempting any of these or other activities that may change the dolphin’s behavior.
While the problem of dolphin mortality in some commercial fishing gear is well known, dolphins are also known to entangle and die in recreational fishing gear as well.
Dive deeper: download PDF of Dolphin Friendly Fishing/Viewing
Dolphins that approach anglers run the risk of getting tangled in lines, hooked by fish-like lures, or ingesting baited hooks or lures.
Three types of interactions between dolphins and anglers are on the increase:
1. Scavenging: dolphins take fish or bait discarded by anglers in boats or on piers. Wild dolphins are thus not eating wild-caught prey. Instead they develop the bad habit of approaching humans. Human discards can be very unhealthy for dolphins.
2. Depredation: dolphins remove caught-fish from fishing lines. This puts the dolphin too close to the hook(s) that caught the fish. Dolphins have been hooked and injured this way. And the injuries can prove fatal.
3. Tangling: dolphins can become tangled in the line. Tangling can restrict the dolphin’s movements and ability or fish or escape predators. Tangling can lead to skin sores and infection, which threatens the dolphin’s health. Several Sarasota dolphins had to be rescued after becoming wrapped in fishing line that threatened their lives.
What You Can Do:
1) Never feed wild dolphins – it’s harmful and illegal.
2) Reuse or share leftover bait.
3) Reel in your line if dolphins approach it.
4) Change locations if dolphins show interest in your bait or catch.
5) Release your catch quietly away from dolphins.
6) Check your gear and tackle: prevent breakage and losing gear.
7) Use circle and corrodible hooks.
8) Stay at least 50 yards away from wild dolphins.
9) Don’t discard your fishing line overboard. Recycle it instead.
10) Stash your trash: wild dolphins might eat pieces of it.
All photos © Sarasota Dolphin Research Program under NMFS permit #522-1785