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Dolphins: Overview

striped dolphinDolphins are extremely intelligent and highly social animals. There are over 40 dolphin species, each with unique physical and behavioral characteristics.

Unfortunately, some dolphin populations are dwindling due to mortalities caused by destructive fishing gear, ocean pollution, and other human-caused threats.

Dolphins and Commercial Fishing

A major player in preventable dolphin deaths is commercial fishing. Fishing techniques including gill netting, trawling and purse seining lead to dolphin injury or deaths via entanglement or drowning. Oceana works to prevent bycatch by defending the U.S. legislation that protects marine mammals, pushing the National Marine Fisheries Service to reduce dolphin bycatch, and participating on a stakeholder team with fishermen and scientist to find ways to reduce dolphin bycatch.

Dolphins and Ocean Pollution

Dolphins, along with most other marine organisms, are sensitive to changes in the marine environment. So when human activities lead to an excess of industrial and agricultural pollutants, dolphins suffer. For example, when Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) find their way into the marine ecosystem, they accumulate in dolphins and can lead to the death of dolphin calves.

Targeted Capture of Dolphins

While it is relatively rare, some cultures regularly consume dolphin meat. This not only can be devastating to dolphin populations, it is also potentially harmful to human health due to high concentrations of PCBs, dioxins, and heavy metals like mercury in dolphin meat.