Be a Dolphin-Safe Boater

Did you know that a boat passes by a Sarasota Bay dolphin every 6 minutes? Or that 1 in 20 dolphins in Sarasota Bay has a scar from a boat collision?

We’ve documented that most dolphin injuries and deaths from boat strikes in the Sarasota population occurs in the weeks surrounding the July Fourth holiday. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be vigilant every time we’re on the water.

Avoiding boat-dolphin collisions is easy — just give them space!

  • Please stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins and slow your vessel when they are nearby. If you want to watch the dolphins, be sure to put your motor in neutral and don’t engage your prop until the dolphins have moved on.
  • Another way to help dolphins is to wear polarized sunglasses and post a spotter on your boat, especially as you move through shallow waters. The polarized glasses will help cut through the water’s glare and a second set of eyes will help increase your chances of seeing the wildlife in your path.
  • Please remember: If you see an injured or entangled dolphin or other wildlife while you’re boating in Florida waters, call Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-3922.

Wild animals that get used to taking food from people often develop abnormal behaviors. The Sarasota dolphin population had a famous resident nicknamed “Beggar” because he would frequent high-traffic areas and beg for food. Eventually, this behavior contributed to his death. And, unlike other dolphins, Beggar remained in a small area, never formed typical social bonds, and never fathered any calves.

In 1996, Pumpkin was hit by a boat propeller while swimming with her year-old calf named Pi. The propeller cut deeply into her dorsal fin and she became separated from young Pi for several days. A few years later, Pi and his buddy Noah were also hit by boats, leaving minor injuries on Pi’s dorsal fin and deep cuts along Noah’s side. Fortunately, they survived the accident but Seed, Pi’s younger sister, was not as lucky, and was killed when a boat hit her at the age of 3.