Commerson's Dolphin

Conservation & Research

Human Interaction

In South America, Commerson's dolphins were harpooned for meat and oil in the first half of the twentieth century.

Commerson's dolphins have also been illegally hunted in Chile and Argentina waters for use as bait in the southern king crab fishery.

Since Commerson's dolphins live close to shore, they are susceptible to accidental netting or entanglement in fishing gear used in coastal areas.

At least 5 to 30 Commerson's dolphins die each year in nets set perpendicular to the shore in eastern Tierra del Fuego.


Both natural toxins and human-made toxins can harm Commerson's dolphins.

Chemicals that are used on land enter waterways through runoff and eventually end up in the oceans as pollution.

  • Industrial pollutants are introduced to the marine environment through mining operations, agriculture, pulp mills, and other coastal industrial development.
  • Household and garden pesticides can enter waterways through sewers and storm drains.

Some pollutants enter the ocean food chain and become concentrated in the bodies of Commerson's dolphins and other marine predators.

  • Some of these pollutants (which may not be harmful in small quantities) are stored in an animal's body tissues after they are ingested. Prey animals that contain such toxins in their bodies pass the toxins on to animals higher in the food chain. Pollutants can become concentrated and reach dangerous levels in the bodies of Commerson's dolphins.
  • Organochlorines are a group of environmental pollutants that include PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). When ingested, PCBs aren't metabolized or eliminated. These fat-soluble molecules accumulate in fats, such as blubber.
  • Low levels of chlorinated hydrocarbons (DDT, PCB and HCB) were found in the blubber of Kerguelen dolphins, confirming the presence of contaminants in oceans far from the main sources of pollution. However, these levels were 10 to 100 times less than those of cetaceans in the North Atlantic.


The non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund (SWBGCF) works on behalf of wildlife and habitats worldwide. The goal of the SWBGCF is to encourage sustainable solutions by supporting critical conservation initiatives worldwide.

  • The SWBGCF conducts grant awards twice each year and anticipates funding for 2005 to approach $700,000. Selected projects must be science-based, solution-driven and community-oriented - attributes needed to achieve effective and long-term conservation success. Groups working on Commerson's dolphin conservation projects are invited to apply for a SWBGCF grant. Projects are carefully selected by a diverse mix of wildlife experts, scientists, business leaders and educators.
  • The SWBGCF accepts donations to support conservation projects in the U.S. and around the world. 100% of donations go directly to selected projects.

Scientists continue to study the abundance, biology, reproduction, migration, and behavior of Commerson's dolphins.

Marine Zoological Parks

SeaWorld trainers and veterinarians perform regular health exams on the Commerson's dolphins to monitor and maintain their health.

In the protected environment of a marine zoological park, scientists can examine aspects of Commerson's dolphin biology that are different or impossible to study in the wild.

The unique opportunity to observe and learn directly from live animals increases public awareness and appreciation of wildlife.

  • Most people do not have the opportunity to observe Commerson's dolphins in the wild. At SeaWorld parks, people experience marine wildlife in a personal way that isn't possible through books, television, or motion pictures.
  • More than 280 million people have visited SeaWorld since the first park opened in 1964, and these visits have played a role in developing a sense of respect for wildlife, especially Commerson's dolphins.
  • In 2005, a Harris Interactive® poll showed that most adults in the United States agree that visiting zoological parks and aquariums encourages conservation efforts for animals. In addition, 95% of the respondents believed that seeing animals up-close at aquariums and zoological parks cultivates a greater appreciation for animals and conservation in children.