Celebrate Dolphin Awareness Month in Charleston


Dolphin Awareness Month: mother and baby dolphins swimming under water.March is Dolphin Awareness Month, an annual worldwide campaign to conserve these playful, intelligent mammals. Those of us who live in the Lowcountry are lucky to call them our neighbors.

Charleston & Dolphins: A Special Connection

We share the waters of Charleston with over 300 resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that spend their whole lives off our shoreline. Whereas other dolphins may travel from place to place, ours stay within their home range. Because of this, we may come to recognize individual dolphins based on their distinct dorsal fin shapes, notches, and markings.

Our region is unique in that it’s one of the only places in the world where dolphins strand feed. Strand feeding is when dolphins work together to corral fish up onto a mudbank or the sand while momentarily stranding themselves in the hunting process. It is a learned behavior that mothers teach their calves and is a rare, unbelievable sight to see.

Dolphin Awareness Month: two dolphins with their heads upright above the water.Charleston is one of the top locations for dolphin research in the world. Both the National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study our resident locals and have applied their findings to worldwide marine mammal conservation efforts.

Charleston’s Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network (LMMN) was created in 2017 to increase education and awareness of marine mammals in our community.

Founder and executive director Lauren Rust explains, “The community didn’t know much about dolphins other than they might see one here or there around Charleston. There wasn’t a lot of education about the resident dolphin population who call Charleston home, the threats they face, or how to be responsible stewards so LMMN aims to bridge that gap. Over the years we have grown our programming through outreach, youth programming, and responding to sick and injured marine mammals across coastal South Carolina.”

How We Can Help Protect Our Local Dolphins

  • Keep them wild.

Dolphins appear friendly, curious, and seem to wear a perpetual smile. Although we’d like to make friends with them, it’s smarter to treat them like the wild animals they are. According to Rust of LMMN, “The greatest threat dolphins face in Charleston is human interactions.” This can lead to negative health consequences, boat strikes, and desensitization to humans. It’s important to never feed them, never touch them, and give them space while you’re swimming or boating. Appreciate them from afar.

Dolphin swimming just under the surface.

  • Learn about them.

Visit the South Carolina Aquarium to learn about local conservation efforts. Go out on the harbor side veranda and you may spy a few splashing around below you. Check out the educational material and videos on LMMN’s website. Teach your children these fun dolphin facts from the Dolphin Research Center. Browse the Kidzone and become a Dolphin Defender or Porpoise Protector with Whale and Dolphin Conservation. The more we learn about dolphins, the harder we’ll work to protect them.

  • Connect with LMMN.

LMMN offers a range of educational programs, fun events, and volunteer opportunities.

    • Attend Drinks for Dolphins. Local brewery? Delicious beer? A portion of the proceeds benefit LMMN? Yes, please!
    • Check out the Marine Mammal Art Show this spring. Beautiful ocean-themed artwork from local artisans.
    • Send your child to Dolphin Camp. They’ll learn about marine mammal science and conservation over summer break.
    • Volunteer! Become a “citizen scientist” at Dolphin Count on April 22. Help with a stranding response. Educate our community via tabling outreach.
    • If volunteering isn’t your thing, show your support financially by becoming a Marine Mammal Ambassador.

Two dolphins splashing out of the water.

  • Pick up your litter.

Pollution in our oceans, marshes, and beaches is a major threat to the dolphin population. Dolphins may accidentally ingest trash and plastics may leach harmful chemicals into the water. Be mindful of your disposable plastic usage and try to cut back as much as possible. Here are some tips:

Let’s do our part to treat our local dolphins with the respect and care they deserve. They make Charleston a special place!

Previous articleI Let My Eight-Year-Old Wear Crop Tops
Next articleGo See Explore: Walking Charleston’s Iconic Landmark: The Ravenel Bridge
Jenna Arsenault
Jenna is a Maine native who moved to Charleston in 2006, moved away for a while, then moved back again in 2018. She just couldn’t stay away from this city that feels like home! She’d choose palm trees over pine trees any day of the week. Jenna and her husband of 14 years have two rambunctious sons, ages 11 & 8, and live in Mount Pleasant. A social worker, registered nurse, and postpartum doula by trade, she is passionate about maternal mental health and is currently writing a book on the subject. Jenna loves to read, kayak, paint in watercolor, and travel with her family. Visit her personal blog on all things motherhood at www.snarkmom.com.