Dolphin SMART Protects Dolphins And Nature Along Alabama's Gulf Coast

    When we traveled to the Florida Keys we met Mandy Rodriguez at Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida. Mandy shared his experiences and his continuing quest to protect Dolphins. At the Dolphin Research Center guests can discover how Dolphins survive in the wild and how each of us can help protect these amazing creature. Mandy and his colleagues are also part of a program called Dolphin SMART that encourages the responsible viewing of these unique creatures through education and training events.

    The Dolphin SMART program, that originated in the Florida Keys, is now a nationally-recognized that unites tourism and preservation efforts in order to educate and enlighten us. Photographer, Joanne McDonough, who has enjoyed a successful career capturing nature behind the lens found her inspiration in Alabama's Gulf Coast, and now is working to ensure that this breath-taking area is understood and preserved through the Nature Tourism Initiative and the Dolphin SMART program. McDonough’s mission is two-fold, and made possible through generous funding from the AL Gulf Coast CVB, Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC).

    Together, they work with local businesses and communities to provide a quality nature experience for travelers. The program also encourages good stewardship and sustainability of our natural resources. By introducing the Dolphin SMART program to local tour operators these dedicated professionals share a common goal; preserve nature and promote an understanding of Dolphins. the Dolphin SMART program is a partnership between NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary and National Marine Fisheries Service, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, and the Dolphin Ecology Project. The program is made possible in Alabama through the support of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Coastal Section), the CVB and MASGC.

    As travelers, we can join other like Mandy and Joanne to help raise awareness of the need to preserve all nature. When traveling enjoy a visit to the local nature attractions and give generously when you can to help support them. When out on a boat, whether you're snorkeling, fishing, or enjoying a leisurely sailing trip watch out for the dolphins, manatee's, and other sea life. They are just as curious about us, and feeding them can led them into dangerous situations where they could become injured or killed. There are many attractions designed especially for us to get a up close glimpse, and feed or touch these amazing creatures. Doing so in the wild only endangers them. Programs like these are actively being used across the country to protect and preserve not only Dolphins, but all nature.

    By Melody Schubert

    Getting There:

    To learn more about these programs and preservation tips use the links provided above or visit www.sanctuaries.noaa.gov/dolphinsmart to learn more about the Dolphin SMART program.