Residents of Palm Beach County have a unique opportunity to explore the coastal wildlife up-close-and-personal in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, with Palm Beach Dolphin
Tours, locals and visitors can encounter the lively, charismatic bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphin on a three-hour boat tour.
However, this memorable experience is more than family fun. The money made on this tourist attraction goes directly to funding dolphin research and conservation with the Palm Beach Dolphin Project.
In 2003, the Taras Oceanographic Foundation kickstarted this project as the non-profit's flagship program. Nearly 14 years later, the project partnered with Palm Beach Dolphin Tours to help fund their work. The proceeds raised from this independent company are given to the nonprofit for research.
“Generally speaking, the foundation has very little overhead,” Chairman and CEO of the Taras Oceanographic Foundation Stefan Harzen said. “Funds dedicated to dolphin conservation work are used to pay for field expenses, equipment and equipment upgrades.”
The tours occur on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., lasting from three to five hours. They bring curious individuals out to the dolphin habitat and let them see conservation work firsthand.
The project is of value to the community and the environment for more than simple entertainment. The conservation and study of these marine predators illuminates much about the conditions of the oceans and oceanic ecosystems.
“Marine mammals are the ocean canaries, warning us about the disastrous effects of pollution and habitat destruction, and they can be our guides to find answers to questions we have not yet thought to ask about the ocean realm,” Barbara Brunnick, research director for the project, wrote in an article from the National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation.
Dolphin research is essential to understanding the complex realities of ocean pollution and mankind’s influence on the habitats of the biosphere, specifically the hydrosphere. They are also a unique animal which people find charismatic with human-like qualities. It is easy to educate people on these tours about an animal they enjoy.
“People react to dolphins with empathy and express concern for their welfare,” Harzen said in an article from ECO magazine.
As a predator in the coastal Florida waters, the dolphin population is an important part of the entire ecosystem. Understanding the species provides baseline data, information for practical application and an increase in public awareness of growing threats to the biosphere.
“If the ecosystem is healthy, the dolphins will be healthy too,” a research assistant for the project Graysen Boehning said. “If the ecosystem is unhealthy, we will see that in the dolphins. We are really encouraging the public to protect and care for the whole coastal ecosystem!”
The Palm Beach Dolphin Tours both fosters a conservation initiative in the tourists as well as funds the research necessary for effective environmental progress.
“Understanding begets caring,” the project’s overview page says.
The Taras Oceanographic Foundation and the Palm Beach Dolphin Project emphasize educating people on the conservation of the Florida coastal dolphins. From this research and specific conservation focus, greater global environmental conservation is possible.
By Maddie Coggins