Interested in volunteering with the Kiawah or Seabrook Island dolphin conservation program?
"Strand feeding" is a unique hunting behavior in which bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) work together in small groups to herd fish towards the shore. They then use a powerful wave to push the fish onto the shore and then lunge onto the shore to grab the fish. Giving the dolphins their space while strand feeding is important to ensure they are not harassed and this specialized hunting strategy is not disrupted.
Kiawah and Seabrook Islands
Dolphin Conservation Education Program
Thanks to grants from the Towns of Kiawah and Seabrook Islands, LMMN is continuing an outreach program started by NOAA in 2015 to provide education and outreach to beach visitors on Kiawah and Seabrook Islands about strand feeding dolphins. In 2019, this program was awarded an Achievement Award by the Municipal Association of South Carolina for the program's innovation, excellence, and partnerships.
Each year, NOAA Fisheries receives reports of people trying to illegally interact with (touch, chase, or swim with) or even hand feed the dolphins as they strand on the beaches of Kiawah Island, South Carolina; these interactions are violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The purpose of this project is to reduce disturbance to strand feeding dolphins and minimize violations of the MMPA, as well as better understand the local dolphin population and this feeding strategy.
This project aims to increase awareness of the importance of maintaining a distance from strand feeding dolphins and how to responsibly view them without causing harassment during important foraging activities, thus, preserving this extremely unique viewing experience and allow for Kiawah Island to become leaders in this conservation effort. Identifying feeding hotspots will allow us to focus conservation efforts on those areas as well as understand the impacts on individual strand feeders if these habitats are lost or if the behavior is abandoned. Photographs of individual dolphins are also collected to understand individual use of the inlet.
Educators will be present on the beach daily during peak feeding times. They encourage the public to keep their distance and follow viewing guidelines to prevent disturbances to feeding dolphins. Educators can answer questions and will hand out educational materials as needed. Reducing harassment is the main objective of this study.
What you can do:
- NOAA recommends not approaching feeding dolphins with 50 yards from a vessel and 15 yards on land.
- Avoid touching, feeding, or disturbing dolphins- it's harmful and illegal!
- Keep dogs on a leash
- Keep noise to a minimum
- Turn engines to neutral when dolphins are near and/or feeding
- Report any violators to local beach patrol