A large number of ocean-dwelling animals feel the impact of humans as these animals struggle to survive in the face of over-fishing and habitat destruction. This is true of many different species, including various types of dolphins. To save these animals and to ensure they will thrive in the future, many groups of people work for dolphin conservation. These organizations strive to protect both dolphins and their aquatic environment.
One significant step towards dolphin conservation was the enactment of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) by the United States in 1972. This act provided for the protection of all marine mammals in U.S. waters. This act not only makes it illegal to harm marine mammals, it also prohibits harassing, touching or approaching them in the wild. This helps to ensure that dolphins and other marine mammals can live freely and safely in the waters around the United States.
The MMPA does not extend beyond U.S. territorial waters. There are other organizations that work for dolphin conservation and for the protection of whales and all marine mammals in international waters. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) exists to protect whales as a worldwide natural resource, but it also tries to identify and resolve threats to other cetaceans, including dolphins.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) is a large, international group. This organization operates various projects aimed at working with fishermen and coastal dwellers to help to preserve different marine species. One important undertaking has been to reduce the number of deaths of dolphins due to entanglement in commercial fishing nets.
Human use of areas that dolphins also use for hunting, breeding and resting represents a threat to the animals’ habitat. Even when the problems are unintentional, dolphins and other marine mammals are injured and sickened by such things as boat propellers, sewage and oil spills. Noise from various human activities can also interfere with the normal lives of marine mammals. This is especially true of dolphins and whales that depend on their sonar systems to survive.
Groups that advocate dolphin conservation insist that humans must reduce or eliminate the disruptions to the marine environment in order to allow the animals to live more normally. When they are injured, unable to hunt or unable to rest properly, the numbers of marine mammals begin to decrease. If these animals are to survive the humans of many countries, not just a few, will need to take dolphin conservation seriously and work to protect them.