Did you dream of having your own pet dolphin when you were younger—or at least getting to hang out with one? The 1960s TV show Flipper gave us a glimpse into what that might be like, and America fell in love with just how cute, smart, and seemingly happy dolphins could be! But TV classics aside…do you know how to react when you see a dolphin by your boat?
Dolphin SMART has a few ideas. The brainchild of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and other conservation groups, Dolphin SMART’s most basic safety tip is all in the name: Stay back 50 yards from dolphins, move away cautiously if dolphin is disturbed, always put engine in neutral when dolphins are nearby, refrain from feeding, touching or swimming with dolphins in the wild, and teach others to be smart about their behavior with dolphins.
Should be easy enough!
On TV or at a theme park, we watch dolphins happily flip around and do tricks, and they seem to always wear a smile. The creation of aquatic-themed amusement parks and aquariums brought dolphins to the limelight (almost like mascots). But the chance of you seeing one out of SeaWorld isn’t all that rare!
Did you know there are 36 species of dolphins around the world? 32 live in the oceans, and four (like the Amazon river dolphin, for example) dwell in freshwater rivers. Not only are they widespread, but they’re close to the shore. They tend to live in warm, shallower waters by the coast, making them more likely to run into boaters venturing out for an afternoon trip.
Seeing a dolphin in the wild can be exciting and startling. No, they don’t have long sharp teeth or menacing claws to scare you away, but they’re a source of such beauty that you might forget where you are and try to approach one, like they let you do at theme parks and aquariums. According to Dolphin SMART, you should admire from afar instead.
Dolphin SMART has partnerships with tour businesses in Florida, Alabama and Hawaii. But according to the program, if you’re going on a tour with a non-partner of Dolphin SMART, or are just venturing out on your own, keeping in mind those five tips can make the ocean a safer place for these gentle creatures.
To learn more about the NOAA Dolphin SMART program, visit the website.