This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Conservation Compliance and Public Awareness: Assessing Dolphin and Sea Turtle Interactions in Coastal Alabama




Henry, Hannah

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Forestry and Wildlife Science


The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) serve as critical legislation for safeguarding marine species in the United States, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico region. Despite legal protections, charismatic and ecologically important species like dolphins and sea turtles remain vulnerable to human activities along the Gulf Coast. Anthropogenic threats include habituation to human presence, habitat degradation, harassment, bycatch, and challenges in enforcing legal protections. Understanding public awareness of wildlife and compliance with conservation laws is crucial for mitigating such threats. This study addresses this gap by examining the extent of public demographics, knowledge, and behaviors regarding dolphins and sea turtles in Mobile Bay, Alabama. Analysis of survey data using generalized linear models highlights the relationship between various factors, such as gender, state residency, and ecological knowledge, on public willingness to adopt pro-conservation behaviors, specifically receptiveness to stop feeding dolphins and using sea turtle-friendly fishing gear. These findings emphasize the importance of tailored strategies and educational outreach efforts by state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, such as targeted educational campaigns and community engagement initiatives, to enhance public awareness and promote behavioral changes that align with wildlife protection laws. By addressing gaps in understanding and promoting responsible behaviors among coastal tourists, conservation efforts can effectively mitigate anthropogenic threats to dolphin and sea turtle populations in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.