Bottlenose Dolphin

Conservation & Research

The International Whaling Commission

The purpose of the IWC is to protect the future of whale stocks as a resource.

Members of the IWC are requested to report direct and indirect catches of small cetaceans, including bottlenose dolphins, as part of the National Progress Reports on Cetacean Research. For the most part, however, these catches go largely unreported.


Working in partnership with state, local, and federal agencies, SeaWorld is on call 24/7 to help animals that are orphaned, ill, injured or in need of expert care.


IUCN/The World Conservation Union Species Survival Commission (SSC)

IUCN/ The World Conservation Union Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group Action Plan contains several projects related to bottlenose dolphin conservation, including studies of accidental entanglements.


SeaWorld has created nutritional formulas and nursing bottles to hand-feed orphaned animals.


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Bottlenose dolphins are listed on CITES Appendix II. Appendix II includes species identified as threatened, or likely to become endangered if trade isn't regulated. All toothed whales are protected by CITES.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)

All marine mammals in and around U.S. waters are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA).

According to the MMPA, it is illegal to harm, harass, touch, feed, restrain, and even to approach marine mammals in the wild. This is for their protection, and for ours.

The MMPA is administered and enforced by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which regulates all activities that affect dolphins in the United States. NMFS programs support the domestic and international conservation and management of living marine resources.



U.S. Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (DPCIA)

This Act, passed on 1990, legislated the "Dolphin Safe" designation for tuna not caught by setting fishing nets on dolphins.

As a result, incidental dolphin deaths declined dramatically in U.S. waters—from 5,083 in 1990 to 0 in 1996.

The United Nations adopted a similar resolution in 1991, which established a global moratorium and effectively reduced dolphin mortality in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.



Marine life Parks

In the protected environment of marine life parks, scientists can examine aspects of dolphin biology that are difficult or impossible to study in the wild.

SeaWorld parks rescue, rehabilitate, and release bottlenose dolphins that have stranded along U.S. coasts.

At marine life parks, guests learn about dolphins and other marine animals, their ecosystems, and conservation measures.

  • Guests leave with a heightened appreciation of the importance of conserving marine animals and preserving their habitats.
  • A 2005 public opinion poll conducted by Harris Interactive® found the following:
    • 97% of respondents agree that marine life parks, aquariums, and zoos play an important role in educating the public about marine mammals they might not otherwise have the chance to see.
    • 96% agree that marine life parks, aquariums, and zoos provide people with valuable information about the importance of oceans, waters, and the animals that live there.
    • 93% agree that visiting a marine life park, aquarium, or zoo can inspire conservation action that can help marine mammals and their natural environment.
    • 93% agree that people are more likely to be concerned about animals if they learn about them at marine life parks, aquariums, and zoos.



The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund

The non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund(SWBGCF) is committed to species research, habitat protection, animal rescue, and conservation education. The Fund was created to strengthen and expand the parks' existing conservation efforts while also providing guests an easy, direct way to make a difference for wildlife. To learn more about the Fund visit The Fund has granted millions of dollars to various conservation projects around the world, including many involving dolphins and other types of whales, including the following:

  • Species research and conservation
    • Texas A&M University received a grant to study coastal dolphins of Tanzania, East Africa, to provide knowledge of the ecology and population biology of the dolphin species in the reserve, assess potential environmental implications, delineate appropriate mitigation measures and lay down scientific bases for a broader long-term management plan.
    • Bottlenose dolphins are well-known inhabitants of Florida's Indian River Lagoon estuary. Their abundance, distribution, and habitat use, however, are not well understood. In 2002, the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute initiated the first comprehensive aerial surveys of this population. Abundance patterns suggested an influx/ efflux of dolphins. With financial support from the Fund, this study is continuing comprehensive, line-transect aerial surveys. The objective is to continue monitoring dolphin abundance and movements. In recent years, the estuary's dolphins have exhibited decreased health and increased mortality. This study will help establish a long-term monitoring program to ensure the conservation of these animals and the habitat.
    • Harmful algal blooms happen with increased frequency and cause dolphin mortalities. Recently, blooms impacted Choctawhatchee Bay in Florida. In 2005, 50 dolphins died. A bloom in 1999 took more than 100 dolphins in this same bay. These perturbations have a measurable effect on how dolphins use the estuary. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) conducted a rapid population assessment in August 2007 and remains concerned about this bay. The ongoing, long-term study, supported by a grant from the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, aims to develop a local database that can assist NMFS in identifying trends in dolphin movements, distribution, and abundance. This work is linked to a model of how dolphins change their habitat use due to disturbance and will hopefully improve resource management practices.
  • Habitat protection
    • The Fund supported the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute's long-range citizen-based project aimed at monitoring ocean noise and describing the noise in Florida's Indian River Lagoon. Public and scientific concern over the impact of anthropogenic sound in the marine environment and on marine animals, particularly marine mammals, has grown exponentially in recent years. The National Research Council made several key recommendations aimed at elucidating the effects of ocean noise on marine mammals. The lagoon is an extremely important habitat for bottlenose dolphins, Florida manatees, loggerhead and green sea turtles, and a host of marine bird species.
    • The Oceanographic Center has been conducting studies on the ecology and conservation of cetaceans in the southern Taῆon Strait, Philippines, since 2003. They developed a photographic identification catalog for spinner, spotted, and bottlenose dolphins, and melon-headed and dwarf sperm whales in the southern portion of the Strait. A grant from the Fund helped expand the coverage of the study area from just the southern section of the Strait to the entire Taῆon Strait. Geographical information system (GIS) maps were generated which revealed the distribution of and habitat use by cetaceans, and were used to identify critical cetacean habitats within the Strait. Stakeholder meetings and environmental workshops to mobilize the locals involved in the development of the cetacean management plan for the region demonstrated that conservation and management plans for ecosystems featuring cetaceans work best when guided by good science.
  • Rescue, rehabilitation, and release
    • The Wildlife in Need Foundation of Lompoc, California received a grant from the Fund to support the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of stranded whales and dolphins in the Philippines.