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NOAA’s Protect Dolphins Campaign

It is against the law to feed or harass wild dolphins. For the dolphins’ sake, and for your safety, please DON’T FEED, SWIM WITH, OR HARASS WILD DOLPHINS. We encourage you to observe them from a distance of at least 50 yards.

  • Dolphins have a reputation for being friendly. However, they are really wild animals who should be treated with caution and respect. Interactions with people change the behavior of dolphins for the worse. They lose their natural wariness which makes them easy targets for vandalism and shark attack.
  • Dolphins are hunters, not beggars, but when people offer them food, dolphins, like most animals, take the easy way out. They learn to beg for a living, lose their fear of humans, and do dangerous things.
  • They swim too close to churning boat propellers and can be severely injured. They learn to associate people with food and get entangled with fishing hooks and lines and die. They get sick from eating bait and people food like beer, pretzels, candy and hot dogs.
  • Dolphin scientists have proof of injuries. Feeding wild dolphin disrupts their social groups which threatens their ability to survive in the wild. Young dolphins do not survive if their mothers compete with them for hand-outs and don’t teach them to forage.
  • Dozens of bites have been reported, and people have been pulled under the water. A woman who fed a pair of dolphins and then jumped in the water to swim with them was bitten. “I literally ripped my left leg out of its mouth,” she said during her week stay in the hospital.
  • Dolphins are not water toys or pets–the “Flipper myth” of a friendly wild dolphin has given us the wrong idea. Flipper was actually a trained, captive dolphin who did not bite the hand that fed him. However, truly wild dolphins will bite when they are angry, frustrated or afraid. When people try to swim with wild dolphins, the dolphins are disturbed. Dolphins who have become career moochers can get pushy, aggressive and threatening when they don’t get the hand-out they expect.

Let the wild ones stay wild.

Feeding or attempting to feed wild dolphins is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA) and implementing regulations. Violations can be prosecuted either civilly or criminally and are punishable by up to fines of $100,000 and/or up to a year in jail.

  1997  /  Management  /  Last Updated September 13, 2012 by LMM118  /