Feeding Dolphins

The billboard in the picture says it all. It’s illegal to feed wild dolphins. And it can cause a dolphin’s death.

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Part of the SDRP mission is to help educate the public. We work with Federal and State agencies, and we partner with Mote Marine Laboratory to help get the word out.

The message is important, because feeding wild dolphi

ns 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.

Boats feed wild dolphin.

Boats feed a wild dolphin. This endangers the boater (who might be bitten) and the health of the dolphin. And it’s illegal.

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.
  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 lost gear.
  7. Use circle hooks and  hooks that corrode.
  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.
  11. 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.

All photos © Sarasota Dolphin Research Program under NMFS permit #522-1785

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