Dolphin Harassment Is Bad For Humans Too

Written by on August 7, 2013 in Marine Life, Policy & Ocean Law, Whales & Dolphins

Here’s a more evidence that ‘swim with dolphins’ programs are no good for dolphins. After swimming with dolphins in a highly controlled (and slightly abusive?) environment at an aquarium or park, or even just seeing ads for ‘swim with dolphins’ opportunities, it’s no surprise that some people want to have that experience in the wild. But trying to swim with or play with wild dolphins is never a good idea.

This issue has come up frequently lately after a video surfaced of swimmers harassing a dolphin in Ireland.

Dusty the dolphin has been spotted close to shore in Clare a lot lately and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group along with the Irish Coast Guard are warning people to stay away. At least five people have been hospitalized as a result of interacting with this bottlenose dolphin. The following video shows why officials are warning swimmers to stay away:

Dusty isn’t the only dolphin that’s injured swimmers. A surfer at a Margaret River beach ended up with a hole in his board and a broken arm after an encounter with a dolphin. Although these circumstances were different than with Dusty. This surfer was minding his own business and got slammed by a dolphin jumping out of the water (probably by accident, but we’ll never know for sure).

Why the increase in reports of humans sustaining dolphin-related injuries? Numerous incidents suggest that dolphin harassment is on the rise.

Bottlenose dolphin.

Bottlenose dolphin. Photo credit: NOAA.

As many as 25 small boats were reportedly following (and therefore harassing) a pod of dolphins in Camel Estuary last month. A juvenile dolphin was found dead soon after and the cause of death is believed to be a result of the harassment. Authorities are offering £2,000 for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.

In the St. Augustine Record, St. Augustine Eco Tours owner Zach McKenna says he is seeing more and more boaters harassing dolphins–chasing pods in boats and jet skis, jumping in the water to try to play with them, or even feeding them.

In New Jersey, beachgoers reported a group of jet-skiers harassing dolphins off the coast. This incident comes during a time when there are “larger than normal numbers” of dolphin deaths in New Jersey and other mid-Atlantic states.

In the Gulf of Mexico, officials are working to minimize the impact of human interactions on dolphins as strandings remain higher than normal. Recently, the Alabama Marine Police hosted a meeting with officials from NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard and 20 dolphin tour boat captains to “discuss the consequences of dolphin interaction.”

In the U.S., dolphins are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, making it a a crime to feed, swim with, touch or harass wild dolphins in any way. Harassment is defined as any act that “has the potential to injure a marine mammal” in the wild. And, as evidenced by Dusty and other dolphin-related injuries, this rule isn’t just for the dolphins–it helps protect humans too.

So after all that, is anyone actually surprised that Dusty the dolphin reacted that way?

To learn more, check out some of these links:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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