Historically, solitary dolphins have appeared around our shores for many different reasons. Sometimes these animals are simply passing through an area on their way to join another dolphin group, however, there are occasions when these solitary animals, like Kylie the Clyde’s common dolphin, remain in an area, become habituated to human presence and are eventually termed a sociable, solitary dolphin.
All too frequently, the result of encountering these unique individuals ends to the detriment of the dolphin as the wish to interact with these individuals overrides our commonsense.
There is an additional problem with these animals; each is unique and each may, depending on the stage of habituation actually seek out contact. Often, following a standard code of conduct will not take into consideration the unique behaviour displayed by these animals and so the WiSe course has made the decision to provide a special mention of these animals so that as operators, you are prepared for an encounter which will be determined by the dolphin and could be different in every case and/or encounter.
ALL OF THE POINTS WITHIN THE CETACEAN CODE OF CONDUCT APPLY HERE, WITH THE ADDITION OF THE FOLLOWING POINTS:
- – Maintaining a distance of 100m may be possible with a dolphin group, however a sociable, solitary dolphin is likely to approach you. Whereas other dolphin groups will choose to leave you when they lose interest, solitary dolphins may not wish to leave your vessel and so may follow you away from the site of encounter.
- – IT IS IMPORTANT THAT, WHERE POSSIBLE, YOU ENSURE THE DOLPHIN IS NOT STILL FOLLOWING YOU WHEN YOU RETURN TO HARBOUR/MARINA FACILITIES. IF IT IS UNAVOIDABLE THEN INFORM THE HARBOUR AUTHORITIES UPON YOUR ARRIVAL. They may already be aware of the dolphin in the vicinity, however if not, advise them to call British Divers Marine Life Rescue (01825 765546), who will decide whether further action needs to be taken.
- – SOCIABLE, SOLITARY DOLPHINS APPEAR TO HAVE A FASCINATION WITH BOAT PROPELLORS AND MAY GET DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO THE ROTATING PROPELLOR. IF THAT IS THE CASE, AND IT IS SAFE TO DO SO, PUT YOUR ENGINE INTO NEUTRAL AND DRIFT. The dolphin will eventually lose interest, however be warned that the dolphin is likely to return to your vessel once the engine is re-started if still in the vicinity. They may also hover beside a stationary boat propeller or rub alongside a rudder.
- – IF THE DOLPHIN CONTINUES TO FOLLOW YOU AND/OR GET CLOSE TO THE PROPELLOR THEN MAINTAIN A STEADY SPEED AND COURSE UNTIL RETURNING TO HARBOUR/MARINA AND THEN TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION IF NECESSARY.
- – AVOID ANY KNOWN AREAS OF REST OR FEEDING FOR AN INDIVIDUAL, OR IF YOU OBSERVE RESTING/FEEDING BEHAVIOUR AT THE SURFACE. DO NOT APPROACH, EVEN TO WITHIN 100M. THESE ARE THE MOST CRUCIAL BEHAVIOURS AND ARE PERHAPS MORE IMPORTANT FOR SOCIABLE, SOLITARY DOLPHINS WHO DO NOT HAVE OTHER DOLPHINS TO RELY UPON.
- – IF ANOTHER BOAT IS ENGAGED IN AN ENCOUNTER WITH A SOLITARY DOLPHIN DO NOT TRY TO ENTICE THE DOLPHIN AWAY. HAVE GOOD MANNERS AND PUT YOUR ENGINE IN NEUTRAL AND OBSERVE FROM A DISTANCE ñ THE NEXT ENCOUNTER COULD BE YOURS AND THIS PREVENTS THE DOLPHIN GETTING STRESSED.
- – IF THERE IS A RESIDENT, SOCIABLE, SOLITARY DOLPHIN IN THE AREA YOU MAY WISH TO CONSIDER FITTING A PROPELLER GUARD TO MINIMISE THE RISK OF INJURY TO THE DOLPHIN, ALTHOUGH THIS MAY DEPEND ON THE INDIVIDUAL DOLPHIN AND ITS PARTICULAR BEHAVIOUR.
- – IT IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO NOT SWIM WITH, TOUCH OR FEED A SOCIABLE, SOLITARY DOLPHIN. THIS HELPS TO HABITUATE THEM TO HUMANS, PERMITTING THEM TO LOSE THEIR NATURAL FEAR AND CAN LEAD TO THEM REQUIRING MANAGEMENT TO PREVENT INJURY, DISTURBANCE OR IN THE WORSE CASES DEATH.