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Experts warn the public of the dangers of feeding wild dolphins

Published: Jul. 11, 2021 at 10:40 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Videos have circled on social media showing boaters feeding some dolphins in the wild. But experts warn these handouts to do more harm than good.

Dolphins are finned, fun, and particularly friendly to humans. But if they pop out of the water to say hi, it’s best to just give them a wave.

“In that situation, it’s okay to watch them. But what you shouldn’t do is tap on the boat or try to feed them or interact with them,” Gulf World Marine Park dolphin area lead Shelby Griffin said.

Dolphins are intelligent creatures who know how to catch their own food. So, there’s no need to be giving them any of yours.

“I know a lot of people get so excited when they see them and I’ve heard horror stories of people feeding them beer or Cheetos and unfortunately that’s not in their natural diet. They can accident be making our dolphins sick,” Griffin said.

Experts said it also changes their natural behaviors. And that can be deadly.

“If the dolphins learn that people mean food, they will continue to return for the food. It can put them in dangerous situations that they lose their fear of humans and boats. It puts them close to all these pieces of large equipment, close to fishing gear possibly,” Gulf World Marine Institute standing coordinator Laren Albrittain said.

Not only is it life-threatening, but it’s also illegal. Dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The law prohibits harassing, hunting, killing, or feeding wild dolphins. Violations are punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation.

“The best thing we can do to help them thrive and to make sure that they’re there for future generations to enjoy and to observe safely is to observe them safely from the beginning,” Albrittain said.

You can still watch them flip their fins from afar. Experts recommend staying at least 50 yards away from dolphins in the wild.

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