What to do when a dolphin approaches your boat

One of the great things about being out on the water is the chance to encounter some amazing marine wildlife! 

That’s exactly what our Creek to Coast crew did recently offshore near Bribie Island when two adult bottlenose dolphins came right up to the crew boat, circling them and getting very close* for up to half an hour. 

Dr Merrick Ekins from the Queensland Museum shares his thoughts on the encounter. 

Dr Ekins, what are your thoughts on this dolphin behaviour 

What’s happening there is the dolphins have been fed in the past by fisherman and they’re coming up.  

It’s beautiful to watch and everyone loves a dolphin but unfortunately, this is caused by people feeding them.   

A, it’s illegal and B, it’ll probably result in someone getting hurt. At some point, someone’s going to reach over and not have food and the dolphin’s going to bite them.  

Another side effect is because they’re used to being around boats, at some point they might have  baby calf with them who won’t know how to interact with the boat and might get hit by the propeller.  

Is this a common occurrence?  

Dolphins are highly intelligent and very curious, and that’s one of the reasons why they’ll come up to the boat in the first place, they’ll come and check it out but then they’ll usually move off straight away.   

So what should you do if you are approached?  

If you’re approached by dolphins, just slow down and observe them but that’s all I’d recommend. I wouldn’t recommend feeding them, and you certainly wouldn’t get in the water with them.   

Dolphins are wild animals as well, they’ve got hundreds of teeth.  

And for fishermen in particular?  

If a fisherman sees a pod of dolphins, you best pull your line in. Same if you see anything in the water.   

What should you do if you see a dolphin that looks sick or injured?  

If you ever see an injured dolphin give the guys at Seaworld a call. They’ve got fantastic dolphin people! 

In the footage we can hear clicking coming from the animals, can you tell us about the way they communicate?   

The dolphins will be communicating underwater and what they’ll be doing a lot of it is echolocation so they’re trying to work out what the boat and other things that are moving in the water, where they are.   

Do we have a healthy dolphin population on the east coast?   

Off Brisbane here we have the largest population of bottlenoses in close proximity to a major city in the world. We have a large number of them inside the bay, and outside the bay.   

*Please note: our crew did not feed or touch the animals* 

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