[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] "Beggar's" ad campaign not working


Published: May 25, 2012

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Commercial aims to curtail dolphin feeding in Sarasota Bay

By TBO.com | TBO.com

A commercial featuring a popular dolphin that tries to keep people from feeding animals has not had the desired affect, Sarasota County officials said.

For years, people in boats have been feeding "Beggar" the dolphin in Osprey, just south of Sarasota. And despite a federal law banning the feeding of wild dolphins, the problem is becoming more widespread in Sarasota Bay, said Randy Wells of Mote Marine Laboratory.

Recently, a computer animation of Beggar was featured on a public service announcement in which the dolphin tells other animals about the dangers of relying on humans for food.

"It all started with one hit of sardines. Oh, sardines. That's where I learned to beg," Beggar says in the commercial. "… Hangin' out under boats, dodging props and hooks, dangerous stuff. Stuff that, uh, I'm ashamed to admit."

Unfortunately, the commercial doesn't appear to be making a difference, Wells said.

"In one case, we saw a 2 percent decline in the Sarasota Bay population in just one year as a result of dolphins that had never interacted with anglers before, all of the sudden, starting to pay attention to fishing gear and eating it," Wells said.

Red tide in 2005 and 2006, which killed fish that dolphins feed on, may have exasperated the problem, Wells said.

"At that point, the dolphins were desperately looking for food in the area, and they were taking it from anglers, and that led to high levels of mortality and familiarity, and that problem has just since grown since that time," he said.

Dead dolphins are sometimes found with hooks and fishing line lodged in their throats.

Officials hope the public service announcement can turn things around.

And so does Beggar's animated character.

"I know I can kick this if people just stop feeding me," he says in the commercial.

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