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How to Interact with Wild Dolphins

You’re out on the water, just off the coast of Florida, and you see something in the water. It looks like a dorsal fin… but don’t worry! It’s not a shark. The waters off the coast of Florida are actually home to many pods of wild dolphins. They’re often very friendly, but when you’re out on the water, there are some rules you should follow when interacting with them:

Don’t feed them

How to Interact with Wild Dolphins

While dolphins can eat a wide variety of sea creatures—fish, crustaceans, and squid, mainly—other foods are off limits. That includes people food. But it’s not just a dietary restriction, feeding marine animals is illegal across the United States. So, for the sake of the dolphins’ well-being and yours, keep any snacks you have to yourself.

Give the dolphins space, and don’t pet them

As we said, dolphins are very friendly creatures, so chances are one or two might come up to you. However, this isn’t an invitation to pet them. They’re mostly stopping by just out of curiosity and trying to pet them might scare them off. They also have very delicate skin that can be easily scratched by our fingernails or jewelry, so you could end up inadvertently hurting them. If you see a pod of dolphins, keep your distance, let them come to you, and resist the urge to pet them (as hard as it may be!)

Know the laws

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is a federal law that was passed in 1972 and it regulates most interactions with marine life, dolphins included. In short, this law bans people from harassing, feeding, hunting, capturing, collecting, or killing any marine life. 

Look for behavioral signs

When you see a pod of dolphins, keep an eye out for the kind of behavior they’re exhibiting. For example, a repeated tail lob is a sign of agitation and chuffing is often a sign of distress. If you see any of these, be sure to keep your distance, for your safety and theirs.

Now that you know how to interact with the wild dolphins in the area, you’re ready to go out on the water. If you’re in Madeira Beach, consider renting a jet ski from Woody’s Watersports. Give us a call at 727-391-0200 to book a rental today!

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