A new study based in Sarasota Bay, Florida, concludes that wild dolphins are more likely to be injured if humans feed them, even through unintentional means like discarding bait.
This is the first study that directly links human-related feeding of wild dolphins with increased risks of injury from human interactions such as boat strikes, entanglement in fishing gear or ingestion of hooks and line.
If humans feed wild dolphins, the dolphins can become conditioned to seek food from humans, which puts them in harm’s way of boats, fishing lines or piers.
The study analyzed data collected from 1993 to 2014 by the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program wild dolphin experts and Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program.
Caption: A dolphin calf was entangled by five different kinds of fishing gear and died in 2011. The calf and its mother were observed together patrolling within 20 m of fishing lines prior to the calf’s injury. (Photo Credit: Sarasota Dolphin Research Program/CZS)