Environment SA News

Feeding wild dolphins has deadly results

Following the successful rescue of Port River dolphin ‘Doc’ to remove hooks and fishing line entanglements last week, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) are reminding people not to feed wild dolphins as it can have deadly effects.

Feeding wild dolphins put them at risk of disease and entanglement in fishing gear
Feeding wild dolphins put them at risk of disease and entanglement in fishing gear

Recent online video footage showing wild dolphins begging for food in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, has also prompted the agency to issue this strong warning.

Nikki Zanardo, NPWS Senior Ranger Marine Parks, said feeding dolphins is illegal, no matter where you are in South Australia, attracting fines of up to $315 (plus a $90 Victims of Crime levy where applicable).

“Please, for their sake, don’t feed the dolphins,” Ms Zanardo urged.

“Begging for food is not a natural behaviour for dolphins, it’s learnt through interactions with humans.”

“Dolphins are wild animals and are more than capable of catching their own food.”

Ms Zanardo said viral videos were also not helping the situation, creating increased risks for dolphins.

“Many people see videos on Facebook and Instagram of wild dolphins being fed in other locations around the world and think it’s ok, or that by feeding the dolphins they are ‘helping’ the animal.

“Feeding wild dolphins does more harm than good, exposing them to illnesses and risks of luring them closer to boats and people fishing.

“This puts them at increased risk of becoming entangled in fishing gear, taking baits from hooks, getting hit by a boat propeller, or becoming unintentionally harmed.

“They are smart animals so it doesn’t take them long to learn they can get an easy feed.

“Dolphins are also a social species. They can quickly teach behaviours such as begging to other dolphins, which is exactly what we don’t want to happen because it puts them at significant risk of illness and harm.

“Doc was lucky to get away relatively unharmed. But his entanglement is thought to have been the result of spending an increased amount of time around boats and fishermen, having learnt that it was an easy way to get food.”

Prior to the incident, the dolphin was observed chasing baits on fishing lines. Despite being free, Doc is expected to still exhibit harmful risky behaviour as a result of his learned behaviours.

NPWS is urging recreational fishers to reel in their lines when they notice dolphins near them.

Community members can report marine mammal incidents to a NPWS duty officer on 0427 556 676.