romantic to be a marine biologist, so there are probably 1,000 qualified biologists for every job.
With that said, I don’t understand why the mahi-mahi dolphin that I often find grilled on a toasted bun and the bottle-nosed Flipper dolphin have the same name. I mean, really? You guys couldn’t spring for a different name for one of them? It’s not like they even bear a resemblance to one another. Even Wikipedia notes that, “the common English name of dolphin causes much confusion.” So fix it!
When my daughter’s friends joined us for dinner after one of my blue water fishing trips, they turned up their noses at being served dolphin until I explained. And you best avoid having a PETA zealot overhear you bragging about the dolphin you just caught. Of course, they are only somewhat relieved when they find out that Flipper is safe but you caught and killed mahi-mahi.
For a while, I began to refer to them as “porpoises” until my good friend, Randy, pointed out on numerous occasions that porpoise is not a synonym for dolphin and that they really are quite different mammals. But forgive me, for I digress.
In many tourist locations today, you can swim with dolphins for a fee (and then afterwards enjoy a dolphin sandwich: mahi-mahi, remember?) We have done that, and it is fun. But it doesn’t even come close to the neatest experience I’ve had with dolphins in the wild.
Years ago, we were over in Panama City, Florida, on vacation, and I had brought along my 18-foot-long boat so that we could go to Shell Island to snorkel. We hadn’t been under way long when I spotted a pod of dolphins. I throttled back and eased toward them so that our two young sons could see them, expecting the dolphins to spook and flee like they normally do back in Mississippi. So imagine my surprise when, instead, they swam directly over to the boat and stood up on their tails at arm’s length from the boat.
It was then that I recalled hearing a story on television the week before about how several commercial operations had been taking boat loads of tourists out to feed the dolphins, and that the fisheries folks had recently shut them down. Evidently, these dolphins had gotten hooked on the free lunches and were hungry. Since they had not yet banned individuals from doing the same thing, we headed off to buy a box of cigar minnows.
When we returned a short time later, the dolphins swam right up to the boat once again, and we began to hand feed them. We then got the idea to put on our snorkel gear to join them. So, armed with a plastic bag filled with cigar minnows, we slipped into the water. It was truly a thrill to have these enormous creatures swim right up to us and gently take the minnows from our hands.
Whenever one of them was not getting their fair share, they would nudge me in the ribs with their snout so that I would make certain to feed them next. But once that bag was empty, they abruptly lost all interest in us. It’s sort of like the women act at those gentlemen’s clubs–once you’ve run out of cash… or so I’ve been told.
It wasn’t long before individuals were banned from feeding the dolphins in Panama City; they lost their welfare, and were forced once again to hunt as God and the U.S. Government intended. I’m guessing those dolphins have long ago forgotten about our meeting, but that unique experience is something I know I’ll never forget.