Dolphin SMART Frequently Asked Questions

We appreciate your interest in Dolphin SMART! Below are some frequently asked questions about the program. Please be sure to visit the Outreach Corner for more FAQ’s and outreach information.

  1. Dolphin SMART participants can easily be identified by a flag or decal displayed on their vessel featuring the Dolphin SMART logo and current calendar year. Please see Who's Dolphin SMART for current participant lists in each location.

  1. All Dolphin SMART participants voluntarily adhere to:

    • Program Criteria: Legal requirements, policies, and guidelines, as well as best viewing and advertising practices to prevent harassment of wild dolphins.
    • Training and Education: Participation in an initial training workshop and yearly online refresher training.
    • Evaluation for Participation, Recognition, and Renewal:Initial evaluation to establish participation and receive program recognition. Annual evaluation to ensure active compliance with the program criteria and determine the program's effectiveness. 

Upon successful completion of the training and initial evaluation, Dolphin SMART businesses receive materials recognizing them as active Dolphin SMART participants. Participants must complete an annual refresher training and evaluation to continue participation. Upon completion, they receive a decal and flag for the current year, which is how you know who is Dolphin SMART.

Do you want to test your knowledge on how to be Dolphin SMART? Please visit Be Dolphin SMART.

  1. Dolphin SMART businesses provide an enhanced tour experience by offering:

    • Detailed knowledge about the laws protecting wild bottlenose dolphins
    • How to responsibly view wild dolphins and recognize signs of harassment
    • Fun and informative educational materials
    • Details about local dolphin populations and research
    • Up-to-date knowledge about wild dolphin conservation by attending continuing education workshops to enhance educational opportunities for themselves and their customers

  1. Viewing wild dolphins in their natural habitat can be a thrilling experience. However, when we approach wild dolphins too closely, move too quickly, or make too much noise, we increase the risk of disturbing their natural behaviors, such as migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, and sheltering.

    The Dolphin SMART program is an educational program that encourages responsible viewing of wild dolphins and minimizes the risk of disrupting their natural behaviors. Dolphin SMART participants serve as stewards for dolphin conservation by practicing responsible viewing and advertising techniques.  Participants also provide educational information to their guests on the importance of responsible viewing and how to view dolphins responsibly.  

    Participating in the Dolphin SMART program provides operators with the tools to help ensure they do not disturb dolphins' natural behaviors, which is a form of harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Harassment is defined by regulation, and means “any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild” or “any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering but which does not have the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.” (MMPA 16 U.S.C. 1361 et. Seq.)

  1. In 2007, the Dolphin SMART program was launched in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary because a large number of businesses were conducting dolphin viewing tours in a small geographic area , which is also home to a resident-dolphin population. The Florida Keys was chosen to pilot this program due to the combination of  heightened human activity in a small geographic area with the potential to cause unnecessary stress to the local dolphin population, as well as the interest and enthusiasm of the operators in the program. Please visit What's Dolphin SMART for more information. 

  1. Research has proven that outreach and education of conservation messages is effective in encouraging environmental stewardship. Therefore, research is essential to the success of the Dolphin SMART program for multiple reasons. Local research on dolphin populations and human stresses provides a scientific foundation for conservation efforts and programs, such as Dolphin SMART. Ongoing research is also valuable to the Dolphin SMART program because it provides a way to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Finally, incorporating research into the program provides Dolphin SMART participants with more education tools for their guests that enhances their tour experience with information on local dolphin populations. 

    If you have additional questions about Dolphin SMART, please