Swim with dolphins ethics?

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Mar 11th, 2003, 09:40 AM
  #1
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Swim with dolphins ethics?

I read in February issue of Caribbean Travel & Life about an alternative approach to the "Swim with dolphins" experience in the Bahamas. There's a company that takes a group of folks out in a boat to an area where wild dolphins are known to frequent--if the dolphins show up, the people are welcome to get in the water and interact with them. IF the dolphins don't show up, then all you get is a nice offshore boat tour. The article said that more likely than not, the dolphins do show up and that people get in the water to play with them, and the writer of the article felt as if the humans were putting on more of a show for the dolphins than vice versa. DOes anybody know anything about this?

My partner and I are taking his granddaughters to the Caribbean for each of their 13th birthdays, and they all want to swim with dolphins. I would never agree to participating with dolphins in captivity, but this experience sounds like it might not be harmful to the dolphins. I'm looking for a little guidance on this issue. I don't want out of ignorance to participate in and condone a harmful activity to these extraordinary creatures.
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Mar 11th, 2003, 10:12 AM
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Hmmm, this is a toughie...
I would be a hypocrite if I said if I were out on a boat and a bunch of wild dolphins came along, I would not be the first person over the side.
HOWEVER, I do not think the people conducting these tours should in any way shape or form use coercion like food to get the dolphins to frequent the area.
BUT, I did do a shark dive where the sharks were fed and know to come to a certain area, so again, it is a judgement call.
Sharks are pretty dumb and come only for the food, whereas dolphins seem to enjoy interaction with people in many cases, and that may be enough to get them to keep coming back.
Bottom line, in my opinion, if they are not feeding the dolphins, I see nothing wrong with it as long as it's not a whole crapload of people jumping into the water at once and overwhelming the poor things with boat after boat.
Unfortunately, the potential for abuse when $$$ is involved makes doing a lot more legwork to find out if something is legit necessary, and I applaud you for taking the time to educate yourself prior to going!
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Mar 11th, 2003, 10:44 AM
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I appreciate the fact that you would not swim with dolphins in captivity. Most of those programs are indeed harmful to the dolphins
I too have alaways wanted to swim with the dolphins but will not do so for the same reasons as you
now..swimming with them in the open..interesting question.
my first question is would it be dangerous? while dolphins are friendly creatures, they still are wild and who knows about a wild animal. I do know that dolphins can kill sharks, so imagine what they could do to a person if so inclined.
my other question is..does the company do anything to lure the animals there, like feeding them.
because ...again..feeding animals in the wild is not a good idea
I swam with the sting rays in Grand Cayman. it was a very exciting adventure and they were in the wild. after I did it, I read an article about the fact that the companies taking people there feed the rays squid, which is true. we did do that. this is having a negative effect because the rays are getting an unbalanced diet..too much squid.. also the rays are coming there every day now to get their handouts and the fear is that too much of this could cause them to forget or give up hunting for their own food.
I felt bad after reading that and realized that even though the animals were in the wild, this was harmful to them.
so I guess we have to be very careful when we mess with nature.
good luck in making your decision.
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Mar 11th, 2003, 10:52 AM
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Swim w/ dolphin places seem to be springing up all over. I think a lot of it has to do with the quality of the operation -- a place like the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, where you swim by appointment and they really seem to be professionally run would take precedence over "Bubba's Roadside Dolphin Swim".
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Mar 11th, 2003, 03:36 PM
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Re: danger of swimming with "wild" vs captive dolphins....I read a report recently from a woman who went to Dolphin Cove in Jamaica (a captive place) and the dolphin she was kissing was called back too soon by the trainer and flipped his tail to do and sprained her ankle, leaving her on crutches for the rest of the vacation.

In Jamaica, we have swum with manatees that are captive, in a way. Their river has been netted off at the sea end and at an upriver point, leaving them about a mile or so of river to swim in, and they are fed as they've eaten all that grows there already. There are 3 living there.

However, manatees are nearly extinct in JA because boat propellers get them by accident, fishermen love to catch them for food, etc. So these manatees would likely not be around at all if not for the protection/captive situtation.

Swimming "with" them is limited to very small groups at a time (like 6 in the river max), and there is no guarantee that the manatees will cooperate, no one calls them over or anything, it's more like you put on a snorkel and hope you get close enough to one to see it.

I did a lot of research on that before we did it and was satisfied that the little government run river with eco-center where they live is probably the only place they could survive in or around Jamaica. I wanted to see them before they were the only 3 left to see.
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Mar 12th, 2003, 05:48 AM
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Thanks for all of your input so far. I've let a coworker borrow the particular magazine where the article on the dolphins was featured, so I can't go back and check to see if the dolphins were lured by food or not. I'll have to look into it a lot further before I feel comfortable making the decision to do it or not. Any other feedback would be appreciated!
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Mar 12th, 2003, 09:35 AM
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A few years ago we were boating in Florida and noticed dolphins following us. We stopped the boat and the small kids threw food to them. Our son-in-law got into the water to swim with them but they wanted nothing to do with that and took off. We continued to look for them but they never came back
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Mar 13th, 2003, 10:25 AM
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Personally I don't see anything bad about this kind of limited interaction with wild dolphins (as long as they are not being fed). I have been many times to the T&C where a wild dolphin (JoJo) has chosen to socialize with people. We received what I think would be very good instructions for anyone viewing wild dolphins. Do not approach the dolphins and try to touch them - they may approach you and interact with you if they want to. Never touch a dolphin's head - they dont like it and if you put your fingers near their blow hole they may react violently (One stupid woman stuck a finger in JoJo's blow hole once and got her arm broken - it's the dolphin equivalent of sticking your fingers down someone's throat.) We were not lucky enough to interact closely with JoJo but we were lucky enough to be in the water with him once (we were swimming and he briefly investigated a boat near us) It is truly amazing to see a wild creature that curious about humans.
I completely agree with you about the dolphins in captivity thing - many are held in horrible overcrowed situations and constantly stressed by forced interaction with people.
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Mar 13th, 2003, 10:49 AM
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It should never be a problem to interact with creatures who are in the wild. It is what scuba divers do all the time. That is one of the great attractions of the sport. To see marine life in its natural habitat and observe then in the natural state. This sounds very similar for snorkelers who might not have the scuba experience or license. I have no problems with it. Just remember the divers motto. "Take only Pictures.... Leave Only Bubbles"

Steve
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Aug 1st, 2003, 01:06 PM
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I'm topping this because dolphins have been in the news lately. Mexico has just attained 28 dolphins that we're captured off the Solomon Islands in the past few weeks. They had a permit for 35, but several died before being loaded on the plane, 2 more died shortly after arrival, another died just this past Tuesday, and many more will certainly die from capture shock or starvation, and ulcers.
So, 'al' it really doesn't matter what kind of captive facility it is. If you pay to participate, you're keeping the captive dolphin industry alive, period.
JMM has very good information on swimming with wild dolphins. First and foremost, let them come to YOU. Don't chase them and don't try to touch them. Statitics say that most will NOT interact with you at all, but will swim away when you get in the water, but a few will stay out of curiosity. Just make sure they are not staying because they are being fed. And, don't go on a wild dolphin tour that 'chases' them either.
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Aug 1st, 2003, 02:53 PM
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The dive op you're referring to is the Bimini Keefe's Undersea Adventures on North Bimini, Bahamas. There's an 80% chance you'll see the dolphins, but if not it is non-refundable. The leader is a knowledgeable lady about dolphins, and the boat cruises at the same speed, the wild pod of bottle nose dolphins recognize the motor sound, and the boat patrols the same pathway each time. If they are done feeding off the Bahama Bank, and desire some entertainment time, they will approach the dive boat, which is nothing but a big red ball to play with, bobbing in the ocean. They'll surface about 700 feet away, and the boat doesn't wildly motor over to them; it just keeps on the same path. The dolphins may eventually come to see up close, and still, the boat keeps at the same cruise, going in the same direction. The dolphin lady knows exactly when their curiosity is over and when they want to play. At that critical point, the boat stops and everyone gently goes into the water. The dolphins will interact with you, and if you dive under and swim upside down...they dig it! They will swim upside down alongside you, eyeballing you all the time. For some reason, the big pod will immediately disappear into the gin-colored waters, even with 100 feet visibility, an amazing feat no one still understands. They sense something wrong, and will be gone, even though us humans have no idea why. Kind of like sensing a section of a large city is a dangerous place, in human terms. They are curious of pregnant women, and cackle by their tummies; they see the baby and are getting a free ultra sound. One women had several gather around her knee, cackling and making buzzing sounds at her leg. Then, they swam off to get more dolphins, who came and inspected her knee, too. After some interrogation with the captain, it turned out she had a large metal screw placed in her leg, and they were "looking" at this curious women. Two japanese ladies were afraid to get their hair wet, and were treading water by the dive boat, high out of the water, about 10 feet from themselves. A dolphin rose right between them, rose it's head out of the water, and looked back and forth at them, cackling and making whistel and buzzing sounds, definately imitating them. I dove with this operation and it's definately how dolphin encounters should be. The pod left when they no longer had any use for us, or just got plane bored by us. So, they took off to leave us by themselves. No feeding or any type of incentive for them to visit...just curiosity by these weird humanoids who venture briefly into their world. Remember, though, if they don't come, you lose your $100. If you're the type who would be bothered by this, don't go. And please, don't encourage the business of capturing wild dolphins. Robert
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Aug 1st, 2003, 02:57 PM
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Whoops! I meant to say the wild pod was spotted, not bottle-nose, dolphins. Robert
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Aug 2nd, 2003, 10:18 AM
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THanks to Ally and Robert for topping this post. As the original poster, I still haven't made up my mind whether I will ever participate in the wild dolphin encounter, but I appreciate Robert's sharing his experience with us. It sounds absolutely magical!
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Aug 3rd, 2003, 09:11 AM
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A photo of one of a handful of dolphins following our boat as we headed from Treasure Beach, Jamaica to the Black River...I wanted to jump in but chickened out. Sometimes people do hop in, our captain said, and depending on the dolphin's mood, they stick around to play or swim away.

I see them swimming along the west end of Negril too, in the evenings.

http://gallery.hookahheads.com/albums/albup11/aap.jpg
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