Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
Pros and Cons of swimming with dolphins in Florida.
One of the most popular things to do on vacation in Florida, along with going the beach and visiting theme parks, is swimming with dolphins. But it is expensive – a morning with a dolphin can cost nearly $300.
It is also controversial. Most of the swim-with-dolphins attractions rely on animals captured from the wild, and the main controversy centers on the ethical question: should these highly intelligent animals be kept in captivity solely for people’s entertainment?
The counter argument from marine parks is that their swim-with-dolphins programs are educational – which is true of some of the better-run programs, although most are simply about pleasing people and making a profit.
In nature, dolphins are social animals that live in tight-knit family groups and swim 40 or more miles a day. Held in a confined space and required to interact with humans many times a day, they can become aggressive, biting and butting visitors.
So if you decide to swim with captive dolphins, be aware of the issues involved with keeping these marine mammals in captivity. Find out if “dolphin assisted therapy” really works. Read about the real risks of dolphin petting pools.
Now perhaps you’re thinking about swimming with dolphins in the wild. Surely that’s less likely to be dangerous? There are dozens of tour companies advertising boat trips to see dolphins in the wild. But if you go, remember that you must not get into the water with the dolphins or feed them. Why? Because it’s against the law.
Dolphins are a protected species in Florida waters. The Marine Mammal Protection Act ‘prohibits the harassment and feeding of wild Marine mammals’ primarily because dolphins that are fed by well-meaning folk in boats start to approach other boats in search of food, sometimes risking death or injury from a propeller.
The best advice we can offer is to follow the recommendations of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. Stick to boat-based tours, and before you go, check this web site.
Look for this logo:
and support one of the “Dolphin Smart” operators by going on one of their dolphin watching tours.
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