"Protect Wild Dolphins" License Plate Sales To Fund Wild Dolphin Research Efforts Throughout Florida

April 15, 1999

FT. PIERCE, FL -The newly created "Protect Wild Dolphins" specialty license plate, approved by the state legislature last year is now available statewide. Revenues collected from the sale of the plate will be used to help fund ongoing wild dolphin research and education programs, which are involved in the study and preservation of wild dolphins in Florida Waters. The internationally acclaimed Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution based out of Fort Pierce will administer the program for the benefit of wild dolphins.

Conservation: Protect Wild Dolphins
The "playful" antics performed by Flipper for the 1960's television audiences have left dolphins with a legendary, larger-than-life reputation. In the last decade, marine mammals in general, and dolphins in particular, have grown in popularity among the public. Viewed as intelligent, nearly human creatures, the friendly dolphin has taken on mythical proportions. Rick Herman, Harbor Branch's President, states that, "It is immensely fitting that Florida, the state which brought us "Flipper" has now designated the "Protect Wild Dolphins" license plate to fund the protection and well-being of this most exquisite, friendly and intelligent animal. The future of wild dolphins - currently on the federal protected species list - is now significantly brighter."

Dolphin Education
A key component of dolphin research and conservation programs throughout the State is educating the public about this magnificent marine mammal and the need to protect the species and preserve their delicate aquatic environment. As apex predators, the dolphin are recognized as a very significant indicator species as to the viability of Florida's coastal waters. Coastal areas play an integral part in the livelihood and recreational activities for millions of residents and tourists. The delicate balance of life which makes coastal zones so productive, including providing a food supply for the dolphins, exists underwater and is invisible to most people. One aspect of Harbor Branch's Dolphin Educational Program will be to foster a better understanding of Florida's coastal areas and the interdependence of its aquatic plants and animals. "Simply stated," advises Harbor Branch's Dolphin Research Director, Marilyn Mazzoil, "clean water promotes healthy seagrasses, which harbor the food supply of the dolphin."

Dolphin Research
Finprinting is a means by which each dolphin can be identified and catalogued. A highly specialized software program (similar to the FBI's fingerprint matching system), currently under development, will allow researchers to input images for immediate identification of individual dolphins, thus expediting the entire process of comparative photo-id analysis throughout the State of Florida and the entire U.S. eastern seaboard. Combined with the latest digital technologies, this process will greatly enhance the ability to disseminate data to the scientific community and the public.

According to Dolphin Program Director Stephen McCulloch, "Since 1974, there have been more than 3,100 recorded marine mammal strandings throughout the state of Florida." Funding from the sale of the "Protect Wild Dolphins" license plate will also help provide much needed funding to other nonprofit organizations and agencies actively involved in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick or injured dolphins.
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, Inc. is one of the world's leading not-for-profit oceanographic research organizations, dedicated to the exploration of the earth's oceans, estuaries and coastal regions, for the benefit of mankind.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution

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