Dolphins In Florida: Everything You Need To Know About Them

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Amin Tawar

Are There Any Dolphins In Florida?

Dolphins In Florida

Several dolphin species appear in Florida coastal waters. They live both offshore and inshore along the tropical and temperate coasts of Florida. In Florida, dolphins are the state’s official saltwater mammal.

The terms dolphin and porpoise are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably. Usually in Florida, both names are referred to the Bottlenose dolphin, the species that is commonly seen along Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts. 

What Kind Of Dolphins Live In Florida?

Here are a few common kinds of dolphins Found in Florida:

1. Fraser’s Dolphin

Measuring over 9 feet long, with a short nose and blunt face shape, the Fraser’s Dolphin has a streamlined body, that is compact when compared to others. The color is unique, with a pinkish belly or pale beige, light backs, and dark bands on the sides. They live in deeper water away from the shoreline as they are more elusive and reserved, making it hard to spot them. 1

2. Pantropical Spotted Dolphin

With a slender, small, and lightweight body, these dolphins measure over 7 feet. They are slim because of the warmer habitat. Their nose is long and different when compared to other dolphins. The species is curious and will approach boats. You can see them perform acrobatics. Though not threatened, they suffer because of human consumption. 1

3. Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

With rounded bodies and stocky torsos, the Atlantic Spotted Dolphins are known for their distinct spotting all over. Their coloring is light on the belly and gray on the back. They can mostly be found in deep water, but sometimes even in coast waters. They consume a huge variety of fish. They are playful and can often see near boats. 1

4. Spinner Dolphin

Spinner Dolphins can be seen in Florida’s warm waters. On the east coast in the Gulf of Mexico and the Hawaiian Islands. They are long and streamlined, with a narrow nose. Their feeding habits are different and they consume squid and fish that move closer to the surface. Their coloring consists of a light gray belly, a wave of gray lines on the sides, and dark gray spots on the back. 1

How Many Dolphins Are In Florida?

Dolphins In Florida

Bottlenose dolphins, which are the most popular dolphin species in the Florida waters are estimated to be around 7000 individuals. They are found living around the shores of the Mississippi Delta. 

Researchers say the species has continued to thrive even further down around the gulf coast of Florida. Other tropical dolphins found in the Florida waters like the Clymene dolphin, Rough-Toothed Dolphins, and Pantropical Spotted dolphins have very less population. Studies show that only around 1000 individuals or so are found on the gulf coast of Florida.

Also, Check Our Guide On Dolphins In California

Where To See Dolphins In Florida?

If you are looking to spot dolphins in their natural habitat in Florida waters, then here are a few spots to view them. 

  • The Florida Keys

Islamorada and Key Largo are perfect spots to watch wild dolphins swimming in pods in frolicking in the waters at Key West. You can find many dolphin-watching tours, with snorkeling adventures and sunset cruises. For educational information, you must visit the Dolphin Research Center.

  • Sanibel Island

Experience the sunrise and see pods of dolphins just offshore. These creatures will be moving up and down the dramatic beach. If you want to watch them up close then take a kayak tour. Explore the landscapes and you will spot a dolphin around Lighthouse Beach.

  • Naples

Naples and Marco Island nearby are perfect spots to see dolphins, as they can be seen the entire day. Walk on the shore to admire the beautiful views of the marine life. Take a trip to Keewaydin Island to see dolphins coming along the way. 

  • Clearwater

Home to the top beaches in the state, Clearwater’s waters are just perfect for dolphin watching. You can visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to see a dolphin named Winter, that starred in the  “Dolphin Tale” movie. Get to learn how to interact, feed, and keep them healthy. Visit the Sand Key Park and discover a quiet shoreline for dolphin spotting.

What Do Florida Dolphins Eat?

Dolphins are known to have a wide variety of diets. They are different for species of fish like cod, herring, or mackerel, and sometimes even squids or cephalopods. 

Bigger dolphins feed on killer whales, marine mammals such as sea lions, turtles, or seals. On average, a dolphin eats around 200 to 250 Kg (440-550 lbs) of food, of which 10 to 25 Kg (22-55 lbs) consists of fish. 

Also, the amount of food they hunt depends on the type of fish they eat. As herrings and mackerels have more fat, whereas squids do not have fat. Therefore to get more energy needed for their activities, they eat more of the latter.

Can You Catch Dolphins In Florida?

It is against the law to harass, catch, or feed wild dolphins as they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The US Fisheries Service cautions that disturbance of normal behavior can ultimately hurt these mammals. 

Human-dolphin interactions increase their chance of injury from boats, and entanglement in fishing gear, which decreases their readiness to forage food and might cause habituated manners passed on to kids. 

Can You Own A Dolphin In Florida?

It is not illegal to capture wild dolphins in Florida, even though no permits were provided for capturing one since 1989. Which makes it legal to capture dolphins. But, you must get a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The permits to own wild dolphins might be given by NMFS for scientific research, public display, incidental captures by fishers, and conservation. When an individual wants to capture a dolphin, they must present an application to the NMFS and fulfill the requirements to obtain a permit. The requirements are:

  • The facility should present an education program on acknowledged standards.
  • The facility must be available for public access regularly.
  • An individual can own a marine mammal only if licensed by the Animal Welfare Act.

Can You Eat Dolphin In Florida?

While no regulations are limiting the consumption of dolphin meat in Florida, indicating there are no laws prohibiting dolphin meat consumption. But there are a few restrictions on its distribution and sale. 

Dolphin meat has high mercury content that is harmful to humans when consumed. Thus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given caution against dolphin meat consumption. The FDA advises that pregnant women and young children must avoid consuming dolphin meat.


And that was everything you need to know about the Dolphins In Florida. I hope this article answered all your queries.

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