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The Town of Seabrook Island
received a Municipal Achievement Award for its dolphin education program.
Officials accepted the award during the Municipal Association of South
Carolina’s Annual Meeting on July 20. The town won in the 1,001 – 5,000
population category. Twenty-nine cities and towns submitted their projects and
Island has the distinction of being one of the few places where visitors can
observe Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the process of strand feeding, a
behavior in which they launch themselves up onto a beach to eat the fish they
have driven out of the water before them.
spectacular hunting strategy is a tourist draw, but it’s also vulnerable to
human interference. To protect it, the Town of Seabrook Island focused on
education for beachgoers by building partnerships with a local nonprofit group,
volunteers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.
Seabrook Island Dolphin Education Program, designed by NOAA Fisheries and
managed by the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network, relies on volunteers working
during peak tourist season to engage with and educate beachgoers about the
process while also collecting data on strand feeding and the impact humans have
on it. As a tourism project, the town supported it with state accommodations
tax funding, and the program was coordinated with the neighboring Town of
initial 2018 season, program volunteers worked more than 600 hours on the
beach, interacting with more than 1,400 beachgoers. The season ended with no
significant dolphin disturbances, and the educators were able to track the
behavior of 11 dolphins, including one new calf.
the town aims to increase volunteer participation and coverage hours. It hopes
to eventually build enough volunteer expertise to transition program management
to a volunteer-run organization, similar to the Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol,
Birders Group and National History Group.
“Seabrook Island is an
example to coastal cities everywhere on collaboration to protect our ocean wildlife
and barrier islands,” said Eric Budds, interim executive director for the
These winning entries represent innovative projects
undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. Information and a
video about the project are available on the Association’s website www.masc.sc
(keyword: Achievement Awards).
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated
the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and
excellence in local government.