Today Is National Dolphin Day: Why It Matters Now More Than Ever

National Dolphin Day provides the perfect opportunity for people to become more educated about these beloved marine mammals. Interestingly, this holiday has never been officially announced by any country. Despite this, National Dolphin Day is celebrated in many nations worldwide every year on April 14.

There have been numerous awareness meetings and gatherings to honor dolphins in past years. One of the main focal points of National Dolphin Day is to discourage dolphin hunts. The unofficial holiday also provides the perfect launchpad for discussing conservation methods.

Several Dolphin Species are Endangered

Perhaps one of the best usages of National Dolphin Day is calling attention to the plight of numerous endangered species. Tourists in many areas of the world have had personal encounters with dolphins via swimming with them or watching them swim around their boat. This has raised the marine mammal’s profile and made it a favorite for many people, but it has also put dolphins at risk.

Dolphin hunting, climate change, and other environmental issues can also spell disaster for these gentle creatures — gentle creatures that are well-known to help humans in danger, according to Dr. Diana Reiss, one of the foremost dolphin experts. There are many reports of dolphins warding off sharks that were attacking people, and National Dolphin Day serves as a reminder that we need to protect them in return.

[Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]

Sadly, some species numbers have dwindled so much that the threat of extinction looms large. One sad statistic listed by WWF indicates that there are believed to be only 63 Maui dolphins left in the wild. These particular sea creatures live off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

Maui dolphins have become critically endangered for many reasons, including boat strikes, coastal development, and marine pollution. Perhaps the biggest dangers, though, are gill nets and trawl fishing. Since 2001, there have been at least five Maui dolphins killed by net entanglement. That number may not seem like much at first, but when you consider the fact that it accounts for 8 percent of the total species population, it becomes easy to see why National Dolphin Day and other awareness events are so important.

National Dolphin Day Maui Dolphins
Maui's dolphin, the rarest and smallest known subspecies. [Image by Oregon State University/Flickr]

There are a few other species that are currently known to be endangered. The Ganges River and Indus River dolphins are both on this list. They are also two of only four dolphin species that live exclusively in fresh water. There are fewer than 3,000 dolphins in the wild between them, and these numbers continue to drop rapidly. Shockingly, some of these marine creatures are still being killed for human consumption. If this continues, the Ganges River and Indus River dolphins will all be gone, regardless of National Dolphin Day conservation efforts.

A Functionally Extinct Species

The loss of any species is a tragedy, especially when human intervention could have prevented it. The baiji dolphin makes it clear that National Dolphin Day needs to step up before another species becomes classified as functionally extinct. In only 50 years, the baiji dolphin declined from a population of 6,000 to zero, according to the conservation agency, WDC. The worst part is that mankind is directly linked to their demise.

Scientists have traced the baiji dolphin’s extinction to China’s industrialization. Since the 1950s, the area where these dolphins once lived has suffered from extreme habitat degradation. Another major contributing factor was the usage of rolling hook long-lines. To put all of this into perspective, there were 6,000 baiji dolphins in 1950, but this number fell to 13 by 1997. No baiji have been spotted since 2006, which led to them being deemed functionally extinct. This makes it clear just how quickly human actions can destroy an entire species.

Using National Dolphin Day for Good

People who are appalled by the loss of the baiji dolphin and the potential extinction of the Maui, Ganges River, and Indus River dolphins can utilize National Dolphin Day to raise awareness. You can also get involved by signing petitions, contacting appropriate government officials, and informing others about the purpose of National Dolphin Day.

[Featured Image by Mark Lee/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0]