Dangers of dolphins

from The Express and Star

With the summer holiday months here and people increasingly heading for the seaside, I write to issue an urgent warning about the dangers of interacting with "friendly" dolphins.

As many readers will recall, a bottlenose dolphin, a species native to UK inshore waters, became trapped in a dock in Cumbria in January.

Marra, as he became known, was fortunately released without mishap, but capturing and moving a live dolphin is a difficult and risky business. In the last few days, Marra has been found stranded alive and again has been taken back out to sea. However, his survival prospects are poor.

Another bottlenose dolphin was even less fortunate and earlier this year was killed in a tragic accident when struck by a boat propeller in Portsmouth Harbour.

What these animals have in common is that they were "friendly" dolphins - animals that were increasingly interacting with people. Unfortunately, it has now become very clear that the more dolphins learn to interact with people, the more at risk of being harmed they become.

Experts from all over the world gathered at a special workshop on friendly whales and dolphins in San Diego last December. They shared many sad stories about animals being wounded and in many cases ultimately killed. The strong message coming from the workshop was that we must make every effort not to "socialise" dolphins, and in particular not feed them.

People thinking about swimming with dolphins should also remember that they are not tame and while their behaviour towards people in the water is usually benevolent, they are powerful animals capable of butting and biting.

Mark Simmonds,
Director of Science,
The Whale and Dolphin
Conservation Society.