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Whale SENSE, Dolphin SMART, and Blue Star

On Vacation? Make Smarter Charter Choices with these NOAA Programs.

Two humpback whales feed in the waters of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Whale of a Time

When you head out to the ocean seeking whales, dolphins, or corals, be sure to practice proper ocean etiquette and ask if the company you are using is certified by Whale SENSE, Dolphin SMART or Blue Star.

Did you know that NOAA partners with commercial whale and dolphin watching companies, as well as diving and snorkeling charters, to promote safe and responsible ocean adventures? While watching dolphins and whales may not seem obtrusive, when conducted irresponsibly, it can actually disrupt feeding, nursing, mating, and migrating behaviors and cause unintended injuries to the animals and the watcher.  Likewise, by practicing responsible diving and snorkeling, you can lessen local stress on a coral reef ecosystem while still enjoying its beauty.

That's why NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and conservation organizations like Whale and Dolphin Conservation and the Dolphin Ecology Project have developed educational awareness and certification programs dedicated to responsible whale, dolphin, and coral watching in specific regions around the nation.

  • Whale SENSE: Developed in collaboration with the whale watching industry, this program recognizes whale watching companies in the U.S. Atlantic and Alaska are committed to responsible practices.
  • Dolphin SMART: This program encourages responsible viewing of wild dolphins through partnerships with companies in Hawaii, Florida, and Alabama.
  • Blue Star: This program, sponsored by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, aims to reduce the impact of divers and snorkelers on the coral reef ecosystem of the Florida Keys.