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January 23, 2007

CONTACT: Cheva Heck, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
(305) 809-4700 ext. 236
(305) 304-0179 (cell)

NOAA, Partners Launch Effort to Protect Wild Dolphins

Dolphin SMART Recognizes Responsible Tour Operators

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has joined with conservation groups to kick off a new voluntary program encouraging Florida Keys tour operators to help protect dolphins in the waters of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The program, called Dolphin SMART, will recognize businesses that meet standards promoting responsible viewing and discouraging harassment of dolphins in the wild.

Staff from NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program worked with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the Dolphin Ecology Project to establish the program, which is partially funded by “Project Wild Dolphins” license plate funds through Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. The acronym “SMART” encapsulates the basic principles of dolphin viewing etiquette:

  • Stay at least 50 yards away;
  • Move away slowly if the dolphins shows signs of disturbance;
  • Always put the vessel engine in neutral;
  • Refrain from swimming with, touching or feeding wild dolphins; and
  • Teach others to follow these practices.

“Dolphin SMART recognizes that tour operators and their customers share our concern for ensuring that wild dolphin populations in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary continue to thrive,” said Cmdr. Dave Score, sanctuary superintendent. “We’re pleased to join with our partners to launch a program that recognizes businesses for conducting their tours responsibly and helps visitors make an informed choice when booking a dolphin trip.”

Businesses that offer trips to view wild dolphins will be eligible to participate in the first phase of the Dolphin SMART program, followed by booking agents and concierge services in the second phase. Participants in the program will be listed on the web and in several publications, and will be able to display the Dolphin SMART logo and advertise as Dolphin SMART operators.

The program will kick off with an introductory meeting Tuesday, Jan. 23,from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in the Dr. Nancy Foster Florida Keys Environmental Complex on the Truman Annex waterfront in Key West. Both charter operators and members of the public are welcome. The meeting will offer the opportunity to learn about program requirements, hear about incentives for participation, preview the Dolphin SMART logo, and sign up for the first Dolphin SMART training.

For more information on Dolphin SMART, contact coordinator Celeste Weimer at (305) 743-2437 or visit

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.

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA 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 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society is an international charity dedicated the conservation and welfare of whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide. Established in 1987, and with offices in the United States, Great Britain, Argentina, Germany, and Australia, WDCS works to reduce and ultimately eliminate the continuing threats to cetaceans and their habitats, while striving to raise awareness of these remarkable animals and the need to protect them in their natural environment. WDCS achieves these objectives through a mix of research, education and awareness raising initiatives.

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On the Web:


NOAA National Ocean Service:

NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program:

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary:

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society: and




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