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Florida Keys Wild Dolphin Alliance
Who we are
The FKWDA is a coalition of Key West-based marine eco-tour owner-operators, formed in 1997. The FKWDA represents a small, but growing, group of locally established captain-guides, who offer boat excursions for viewing wild dolphins in the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. FKWDA members pride themselves on providing respectful, ecologically oriented tours. Many FKWDA members have long served to protect the dolphins of the lower Keys, and we seek to further efforts towards achieving conservation goals. To certify our dedication and guide our actions, members agree to abide by our Code of Ethics and Operator Guidelines.
What we do
FKWDA members use six-passenger boats for eco-tours of the lower Florida Keys, focusing on observation of wild dolphins in their natural habitat. Dolphins are always approached safely and conscientiously. FKWDA captains take extreme care not to harass dolphins in any way. This includes no interruption of any dolphin or dolphins during their feeding, resting, or mating times.
Our trips provide tourists and local residents opportunities to explore the backcountry of the Florids Keys National Marine Sanctuary, snorkel the shallow reefs, and observe marine wildlife, under the guidance of experienced captain-guides. Member operators provide passengers with exciting, educational, and safe marine widlife eco-tours. Tours orient around nature interpretation and teaching passengers about dolphins, their habitat, and local efforts towards conservation of marine mammals. Captain-guides offer interpretative ecological information and descriptions of local dolphins, their behavior, and the ecosystems of the lower Keys--based on years of daily observation on the water.
Avoidance behavior displayed by dolphins is respected by keeping vessels a generous distance away. FKWDA operators wait until dolphins themselves approach the vessel.
Why We Formed the Alliance
Concerned local boat captains founded the FKWDA to, one, protect the wild dolphins of the lower Keys and, two, promote responsible marine tourism. Established and experienced tour owner-operators found a need for collaboration on legal, political, social, and economic issues around dolphin protection and eco-tourism enterprise. FKWDA was specifically formed to:
- establish operator guidelines and ethical standards;
- provide education and outreach to the public;
- facilitate communication amongst tour operators, government agencies, and researchers; and to
- record member operators' daily observations on the water, compiled for improved monitoring of and research on dolphin populations.
Our Role in Dolphin Protection
The FKWDA seeks to educate the public, tour operators, and state and federal agencies interested in the protection of marine mammals about our operators' impacts on wild dolphins. We seek to communicate and further develop the benefits of responsible eco-tourism in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Our owner-operator captains have years of combined experience with the resident and migrating wild dolphins of the lower keys. They are informed and seasoned field observers, interpreters, and guides, and act as the frontline in monitoring dolphin populations and marine ecosystems. The FKWDA provides a place for recognition of responsible, knowledgeable, and concerned tour operators willing to abide by our Code of Ethics and Operator Guidelines. Research and monitoring, public education and outreach, and citizen enforcement of marine mammal and environmental legislation are all essential roles the FKWDA plays in the lower Keys.
The FKWDA encourages other responsible and conscientious marine excursion operators to apply for membership with us. The FKWDA also invites researchers, government representatives, or any other interested party to contact us, and inquire about our work. We especially welcome ideas and suggestions regarding potential cooperation with the network of FKWDA operators.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF SOURCE
The Florida Keys Wild Dolphin Alliance welcomes and encourages others to adopt the principles embodied in our Code of Ethics and Operator Guidelines. This document was created based on regulations and practices worldwide of responsible wild dolphin encounter operations. Entities including, but not limited to, agencies, organizations, professional tour operators and individuals engaged in the study of wild dolphins, may quote and adapt the text of this document if and only if the intent is not altered and acknowledgment of the source is attributed to the Florida Keys Wild Dolphin Alliance.