Dolphin Threats and Conservation

dolphin threats and conservationDolphins may be well loved by many humans, but they are also at risk due to the efforts of humans. In all of the bodies of water where they reside, humans have contributed to contaminants in the water such as plastic, chemicals, and oil. Such forms of pollution can harm the dolphins internally. They can also kill food resources so that it becomes harder for the dolphins to find enough to survive.

Humans and water related activities such as boating are extremely common in the areas where dolphins are found. The risk of injury or death to them from being struck by such heavy motorized vehicles is very likely. Even though dolphins can heal fast, they can’t survive some of these hits from vehicles that weigh a great deal. An injured dolphin may get help from the rest of the pod but that isn’t always enough for it to be able to survive.

Commercial fishing operations can be a risk to dolphins too due to them getting caught in nets or other contraptions. In some locations where dolphins are frequently found, it is limited to where the commercial fishing can occur. In others, the fishermen are mandated to check their equipment at regular intervals and to release dolphins that may be caught in them. If they can’t get the surface for air though, it is very likely that it will be too late for the dolphin to survive.

In some regions such as Japan and Peru, the dolphin is hunted for meat. While only a small population of people consume it, there is a market for it. Such hunting does result in quite a few of them needlessly being killed every single year. Some of the conservation efforts have involved putting pressure on the Japanese government to ban such hunting. Exotic hunting for the sport of it also accounts for some deaths. Some individuals will pay good money for the thrill of being able to hunt and kill something unusual.

Dolphins have skin that feels like rubber, but it is very sensitive. Even human touch can cause damage to it if a person isn’t very careful. Many of the objects in the water that humans have put there can rip the skin of a dolphin and that can make them vulnerable to bacteria or infections. They are already prone to a variety of diseases and parasites so this makes them more susceptible.

Some people think it is fun to feed dolphins when they see them in the wild, but this is risky. Dolphins do have sharp teeth and they may bite accidentally. They can also become aggressive if they want to be fed more but the humans stop doing so. The entire dynamics of life for the dolphins can be jeopardized when they start being fed various foods by humans.

The noise that dolphins experience including naval sonar, firing exercises in the water, construction, and boats can all contribute to high levels of stress for dolphins. They can also suffer due to decompression sickness and hearing loss if they are surfacing too soon due to the noise being bothersome.

There are some conservation efforts in place to help preserve the water where the dolphins live so that they can continue to survive. However, some of them including the Amazon River Dolphin and the Ganges River Dolphin are all considered to be critically endangered at this point in time.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 both offer the dolphins some protection, but it isn’t enough. Limiting boating to certain areas has started to occur, but many people are resistant to this. They don’t want to see their recreational fun limited. During migration, the dolphins are more likely to get struck by boats and other water vehicles.

In 1984, amendments were made to the Marine Mammal Protection Act so that there could be more protection for dolphins. When tuna were being commercially captured it was a huge risk to them The Department of Commerce banned imports of tuna from fishing fleet locations that didn’t have methods in place to reduce dolphin kill rates that were comparable to those of the USA. However, by 1988 those dolphin deaths in other locations around the world were still four times higher than those in the USA.

Many environmental protection groups boycotted the purchase of tuna to help make a stand against it. The three major companies that owned 70% of the market (Bumble Bee, Starkist, and Ralston) voluntarily offered a dolphin safe only policy. They refused to buy the tuna from any entity that didn’t have safety practices in place to protect them.

The Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act was implemented in 1990. This offered even more protection to them in regards to safety for commercial tuna capture. The International Dolphin Conservation Act was passed in 1992 with a 5 year strategy that would prohibit fleets from being able to chase or capture dolphins in nets.




Michael E. Soulé. Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea’s Biodiversity. Island Press, 2005.

Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, Rules Promulgation and Proposed Issuance of Permits to Commercial Fishermen: Environmental Impact Statement. 1974.



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