NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and its partners today accepted the third charter operator into a new program created to help protect wild dolphins in the Keys. Key West Eco Tours officially joined the Dolphin SMART program after successfully meeting standards that promote responsible viewing of dolphins in the wild.
“We are pleased to welcome Key West Eco Tours as the third participant in this important program,” said sanctuary superintendent CDR Dave Score. “Dolphin SMART’s approach to protecting wild dolphins by working with the businesses that depend on them is an excellent example of the value of partnerships in marine conservation.”
The Dolphin SMART program was developed by the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, NOAA Fisheries Service, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and Dolphin Ecology Project. The project is funded by NOAA Fisheries and the “Protect Wild Dolphins” license plate funds through Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. The acronym “SMART” is a reminder of the basic principles of dolphin viewing etiquette:
- Stay at least 50 yards from dolphins,
- Move away slowly if the dolphins show signs of disturbance,
- Always put your vessel engine in neutral when dolphins are near,
- Refrain from feeding, touching or swimming with wild dolphins,
- Teach others to be Dolphin SMART.
"Key West Eco-Tours is proud to participate in the Dolphin SMART program,” owner Carla Bellenger said. “Onboard Java Cat we feel it is important to promote responsible viewing of wild dolphins."
Dolphin SMART-approved charters receive flags and stickers and permission to use the Dolphin SMART logo in their advertising. Each year, participants are evaluated to ensure they continue to meet program standards. By looking for the current year on flags and logos and checking the updated participant list, visitors to the Florida Keys seeking the thrill of seeing dolphins in the wild can ensure the tour operator they select is Dolphin SMART. For more information, visit http://www.dolphinsmart.org or contact program coordinator Celeste Weimer at 305-743-2437, ext. 22.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2,896 square nautical miles of important marine habitat, including maritime heritage resources, as well as coral reef, hard bottom, seagrass meadows, mangrove communities and sand flats. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.
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National Marine Sanctuary Program
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary