Amazing Earth

Are You Dolphin SMART?

This past summer Marty and I visited the Indianapolis Zoo, and our favorite part was the Dolphin Meet and Greet. Before the dolphin show, we heard from the trainers and learned a lot about dolphins. This really inspired us to do our part in helping the dolphins.  It is important to learn that viewing marine mammals in the wild is big business with an estimated economic impact of nearly $1 billion.

According to an International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) 2009 report, the United States has the world’s largest marine mammal viewing industry with approximately five million participants – 250,000 of which specifically view dolphins. There are over 125 dolphin-viewing businesses all along the East Coast and down to the Gulf of Mexico, with Florida at the forefront. When considering the significance of this growing industry, it’s imperative to consider its effects on the animals’ lives and their health. The protection of dolphins and their habitat is an important factor in the economic sustainability of dolphin viewing businesses. Even unintended disturbance from people and boats can significantly alter dolphin behavior and harm the animals. In extreme cases, these marine mammals will permanently move away from their residential bay habitat, thus crippling the area’s viewing industry. Harassment can include separating or surrounding dolphin groups, erratically and quickly approaching dolphins, or any other activity that may change the animal’s behaviors. You can read more about this here.

Harassment and feeding wild dolphins put them at greater risk for boat strikes and fishing gear entanglement. In the past, there have been several dolphin injuries associated with human interaction occurring in the Southeastern states. Between 2002 and 2009, seventeen stranded dolphins were found with evidence of boat strikes along Florida’s east coast. Dolphin SMART embraces the “green” shift in American culture and helps businesses achieve responsible business practices through cause marketing (Center for Better Living). Cause marketing integrates social and environmental issues into brand awareness to generate business and social benefits. Therefore, Dolphin SMART is an important choice for people who want to show their support for wild dolphin conservation. They can enjoy viewing these animals in their natural habitat. Dolphin SMART accomplishes this by requiring participating businesses to provide an educational briefing before the tour explaining the importance of responsible viewing and how the program helps wild dolphins.

Dolphin SMART also provides participating businesses with program logos and statements for use on advertisements, websites, boat flags, and decals. As competition for dolphin viewing increases, Dolphin SMART provides participating businesses a competitive edge by showing their support for an environmental cause and by conducting sustainable business practices (Center for a Better Living). We hope that if you take your family to view the dolphins, you will be Dolphin SMART. For more Green Earth articles, please follow our blog.