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Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whale (balaenoptera physalus) Three fin whales Gulf of California.

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Orca (ID171) breaches off the coast of Scotland © Steve Truluck.

Watching whales and dolphins in the wild can be life changing

Whales and dolphins are too intelligent, too large and too mobile to ever thrive in...

WDC welcomes another Dolphin SMART participant in Hawaii

WDC and program partners have continued expansion of the Dolphin SMART conservation program in Hawaii to the island of Maui. Dolphin SMART is a voluntary outreach and stewardship program that awards annual recognition to tour operators who responsibly view wild dolphins and educate their patrons on dolphin conservation.

Trilogy Excursions is the most recent operator to earn Dolphin SMART recognition in Hawaii, and as the fifth Dolphin SMART business in the state, marks the Program’s expansion to a third island there. Trilogy Excursions joins Hawaii Nautical and their subsidiary Port Waikiki Cruises, Ocean Joy Cruises, and Dolphin Star on Oahu, and Holoholo Charters on Kauai. With the addition of Trilogy Excursions, there are currently seventeen participating operators in Florida, Alabama, and Hawaii.

Dolphin SMART originated in Key West, Florida, and was launched by WDC, NOAA Fisheries Service and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Dolphin Ecology Project in 2007. The Program expanded to Alabama in 2008 before launching in Hawaii in 2011.

Viewing dolphins from a responsible distance is a cornerstone of the Dolphin SMART program. Close viewing of wild dolphins may disrupt important natural behaviors such as resting, feeding, and nursing and result in negative impacts to the health of dolphin groups and their young.

The “SMART” acronym is a reminder of the basic principles of dolphin viewing etiquette:
Stay at least 50 yards from dolphins,
Move away slowly if the dolphins show signs of disturbance,
Always put your vessel engine in neutral when dolphins are near,
Refrain from feeding, touching, or swimming with wild dolphins,
Teach others to be Dolphin SMART.

In recent years, there has been an increase in human dolphin interactions in the main Hawaiian Islands. These activities primarily target Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris longirostris), which are routinely found close to shore in shallow coves and bays where they congregate during the day to rest, care for their young and avoid predators before traveling to deeper water at night to hunt for food. Commercial operators that offer “swim with wild dolphin” tours and individuals that swim or paddle from shore interact with dolphins during times when the animals are at rest. Hawaiian spinner dolphins are a subspecies found only in the Hawaiian Islands and are genetically distinct from other spinner populations, such as those in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

WDC is concerned that these human activities displace spinner dolphins from their resting areas and may have population and individual-level effects, and supports a variety of measures to protect spinner dolphins throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Scientific studies have documented human disturbance of Hawaiian spinner dolphins during their resting periods along the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, most notably in and around Kealakekua Bay. Newly-published research supports our concerns regarding disturbance and potential displacement of localized spinner dolphin populations within Hawaii through increasing human interactions.

WDC encourages visitors to Hawaii to book with a Dolphin SMART operator. Vessels of participating operators carry a Dolphin SMART flag and decal with current calendar year. A list of Dolphin SMART operators is available online at www.dolphinsmart.org.