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Why Are Dolphins Endangered? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

In this lesson, we'll talk about the different threats to some of the most-loved marine mammals - dolphins. Find out how people have caused harm to dolphins and what they are doing to help them!

Dolphins in Danger

Have you ever seen a dolphin swimming out in the wild? It's hard to believe when you watch these powerful creatures swim, but many are becoming or already are endangered. Most of the threats to dolphins come from people when we fish, pollute, and make changes to their environment.

Dolphins are marine mammals, so they need to come up to the surface to breathe. We now know they are incredibly smart. Different dolphins live all over the world, including the biggest dolphin - the killer whale!

Dolphins swimming
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Threats from Fishing

Fishing is a huge business because people like eating tuna fish, crabs, and other seafood. When dolphins are swimming nearby, they can get tangled in fishing nets and can't come up for air. When dolphins get hurt or die in fishing nets meant for other fish, they are called bycatch. The World Wildlife Foundation says that more than 300,000 dolphins, porpoises, and whales die this way every year. Fishing also affects dolphins when we catch too much of the fish that they eat.

Tuna fishing boat
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Threats from Pollution

When we spill trash, oil, or chemicals into the ocean, by accident or on purpose, we are polluting it. Chemicals containing toxins or poisons can kill smaller fish that dolphins need for food. The toxins can also affect the dolphins' health when they breathe them in and affect their ability to have healthy babies. When garbage is in the ocean, dolphins can get tangled up in or swallow the trash and die.

There is another kind of pollution called noise pollution that also harms dolphins. When people use big ships or try to find oil in the ocean, they are polluting the environment with noise. Dolphins use echolocation, which means they send out a sound and wait for it to echo back. This helps them find nearby things in the water.

Dolphins also make sounds to communicate with each other. Imagine talking to a friend in a quiet room. Then picture yourself playing a song on your cell phone really loud. You may not be able to hear what your friend is saying anymore. Noise pollution may make it hard for dolphins to find where they are and to talk to one another.

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