6 tips from the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network to keep wild dolphins, and you,
safe on the water!
It’s always exciting to encounter wild dolphins when on the water and by following a few guidelines you can help protect yourself and the dolphins! Maintaining safe behavior near wild dolphins ensures that many more generations can visit and appreciate these beautiful animals in the Gulf of Mexico!
1. Don’t feed wild dolphins: In 2019 alone there have been 7 dolphins killed in Alabama as a result of negative human interactions. It is likely these animals were habituated to approaching boats, putting them at risk of these harmful, close interactions. Did you know feeding dolphins is illegal under the National Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972?
2. Stay at least 50 yards away: Never chase or harass dolphins; this can be very stressful for the animals. Observing dolphins from a distance will also allow you to observe more natural behaviors, such as babies playing or pods hunting for fish- so be sure to bring your binoculars! Did you know that bottlenose dolphins are pregnant for 13 months and nurse from their mothers for 3 years?
3. Reuse or share leftover bait, don’t throw it overboard or to dolphins: Freeze leftover bait for later or give it to your fishing neighbor. Dumping leftover bait may attract dolphins to fishing areas to beg or steal bait/catch. If you need to dump bycatch, try to relocate away from dolphins, never feed bycatch to dolphins! Dolphins are very good hunters and can catch 15-30 lbs of food per day (all on their own)!
4. Reel in your line: If dolphins appear or show interest in your bait or catch, reel in your line to avoid unintentionally hooking and injuring an animal. Wait for dolphins to pass to avoid losing your bait/catch and prevent potential harm to dolphins. Never cast toward dolphins and use circle and corrodible hooks to reduce injuries to wildlife! Did you know dolphins can swim up to 25 mph when in pursuit of a fish?
5. Prevent wildlife entanglements and recycle your fishing line: Place all broken or used fishing line in a Monofilament Fishing Line Recycling Bin. If no recycling bins are available, place broken or used fishing line that has been cut into pieces in a lidded trash can. Did you know that hundreds of thousands of marine mammals die from plastic entanglement worldwide every year?
6. Stash your trash: Collect any trash you’ve left behind and place it in a lidded trash can to prevent marine life from becoming entangled or ingesting debris. Did you know marine animals often mistake plastics for prey items?