WHALES AND DOLPHIN INFORMATION PAGE 3
Oceanic Society Guidelines For Interactions With Wild Dolphins
An experienced biologist should oversee any interactions with
The number of swimmers allowed in the water at one time should be determined by a biologist in response to the behaviour of the dolphins.
1. Never try to touch or chase a dolphin. Recommended attitude in water is to gently dolphin-kick with arms held at side or behind the back. Swimmers should not emit loud noises.
2. Do not offer small floating objects or ropes to the dolphins as they may ingest the small objects or become entangled in the rope.
3. Look for signs of aggression. Tail slapping and jaw clapping in the vicinity of swimmers or boaters are definite signs of aggressive behaviour, and indicate that the animal is not happy. Dolphins may ram swimmers with their rostrum. This can cause severe internal damage or death to the swimmer. When a dolphin makes speed runs towards a boat or swimmer it is a good indication to leave the vicinity immediately.
4. Never feed a marine mammal. Fish that has been handled improperly can make a marine mammal ill. Once sick, they may not eat, and it would be impossible to treat a wild cetacean. Feeding bad or improperly handled fish could lead to the death of a wild cetacean. Even properly handled fish may not be the proper diet, and feeding wild dolphins may disrupt normal foraging behaviours, and make dolphin's dependent on human hand-outs.
5. Swim in the vicinity at your own risk. As adolescent dolphins mature, they become much more aggressive and their play becomes much more rough. A dolphin playing rough with a human could cause injury. Also, male dolphins are known to bite other dolphins as a means of communication, and a bite can cause serious injury to a swimmer.
6. People with any illness, or infections should not enter the water or interact in any way with wild cetaceans. Cetaceans are susceptible to a variety of human ailments, and are especially susceptible to Candida (yeast) infections.
7. People with immune system problems should not breathe the breath of a dolphin, as dolphins carry the bacteria Vibrio sp. which can be very pathogenic to humans.
In 1996, Denise Herzing worked with various operators and agencies to come up with the following mutually acceptable dolphin watching and swimming guidelines for the Bahamas. These guidelines are produced as a handout and are displayed at Customs at West End, Grand Bahama Island
Bahamian Dolphin Guidelines
These guidelines are developed and supported by: Wild Dolphin Project, Bahamas National Trust, Bahamas Dept. of Fisheries, Bottomtime Adventures, Jennifer Marie, Crown Diving Corporation, Dream Team, Sea Fever, Wren of Aln, Shearwater Excursions, Gulfstream Eagle, and Island Chaser. Special thanks: Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
While you are travelling in the Bahamas you may encounter dolphins or other marine mammals. Marine mammals are protected in Bahamian waters by Department of Fisheries regulations. These include rules against harassment, capture, molesting and feeding dolphins. If you happen to encounter dolphins with your vessel or while you are in the water, there are a few simple things you can do to help protect these animals.
Q. WHAT IF THE DOLPHINS APPROACH OUR VESSEL AND BOW RIDE?
A. Most operators allow the dolphins to bow ride both large and small vessels at times. Care should be taken during approaches and vessels are encouraged to let the dolphins leave, without pursuit, if they appear uninterested in such activities.
Q. CAN WE SAFELY DISPOSE OF OUR WASTE PRODUCTS NEAR DOLPHINS?
A: Dumping holding tanks, especially untreated ones, near any marine life, is discouraged. If you must dump tanks it is recommended that you do so off the shallow sand banks, in deeper water with better current flow. At no time should trash, other than biodegradable food waste, be dumped overboard. U.S. registered vessels are subject to fines by USCG and Bahamian Defence Force.
Q. WHAT DO I DO IF A DOLPHIN APPROACHES ME IN THE WATER?
A. LET THE DOLPHINS VOLUNTARILY APPROACH YOU. Touching, riding, or feeding the dolphins is highly discouraged. Capturing dolphins is illegal. Aggressive activities include rapid swimming or grabbing at the dolphins which will frighten the dolphins away. Scratching with fingernails or touching the dolphins may cause skin infections and they could possibly contract human diseases. Keeping your arms along side your body or behind your back increases your chances for a close and successful encounter.
Q. HOW LONG DO THE DOLPHINS STAY WITH SWIMMERS AND DO I HAVE TO KEEP UP WITH THEM?
A. You can never keep up with a dolphin. If the dolphins want to interact with you they will stay nearby. Stay near the boat for safety reasons and if you do find yourself away from the boat, return to the vessel and the dolphins will often return with you.
Q. IS IT BETTER TO SNORKEL OR SCUBA WITH THE DOLPHINS?
A. Most boats familiar with dolphin encounters encourage snorkelling. Scuba can be encumbering and will limit your movement with the dolphins. The use of scooters is discouraged because they allow the diver to stray too far from the vessel.
Q. DO THE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE IN THE WATER AFFECT THE DOLPHINS?
A. It is not known whether a high ration of people to dolphins in the water has adverse affects. Dolphin etiquette IN THE WATER is probably more important. Initially, a low ratio of people to dolphins in the water is recommended. Low ratios make the encounter more enjoyable for people.
Q. DOES MUSIC ATTRACT THE DOLPHINS?
A. Since dolphins are acoustic animals it is important that this acoustic channel remain open for their communication. Excluding the use of listening devices, putting sounds into the water should be used judiciously. For example, the use of killer, false killer, and pilot whale sounds, continuous music, or sounds from species not normally in the area are discouraged. Bahamian research permits are encouraged for such activities.
Q. WHAT DO I DO IF I FIND MYSELF IN AN AREA WITH OTHER BOATS TRYING TO INTERACT WITH DOLPHINS?
A. If you find yourself around other boats interacting with dolphins the most important things to do are; 1) communicate with the vessel to make sure you know the location of any swimmers they may have in the water, and 2) honour at least a 1/2 nautical mile distance so as not to interfere with the other boats.
Q. SHOULD I TRY TO KEEP UP WITH THE DOLPHINS OR ANCHOR THE BOAT?
A. Many boats that have experience with wild dolphins prefer to anchor the boat and minimize movement. This is both to insure the least invasive behaviour with the dolphins and to allow the dolphins to choose to come over to the boat when THEY want to. Secondary boat movement, such as the use of a zodiac or skiff on a regular basis, is discouraged to not harass the dolphins every time they are sighted. Behaviourally, when you see large groups of slow moving dolphins at the surface they are often at rest. Approaching the dolphins during this time is discouraged.
Q. WHAT DO I DO IF I SEE ANOTHER BOAT WHO DOESN'T APPEAR TO FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES?
A. These guidelines have been developed to share and distribute as needed to minimize dolphin harassment and increase positive encounters between people and dolphins. Often questionable behaviour is just a problem with open communication lines between vessels or lack of information. Feel free to share this information and discuss it with boats in the area for further feedback and guidance.
Acknowledgments: Denise Herzing (Wild Dolphin Project); Diane Claridge and Ken Balcomb (Bahamas Marine Mammal Survey), CTO 1997, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Baker 1998, CTO 1997. NEXT
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