Dolphin feeding fine – Wide Bay region

Issued: 13 Apr 2023

A man has been fined $431 for hand-feeding a wild dolphin from a boat during a fishing trip in Tin Can Bay.

A member of the public provided information to the Department of Environment and Science (DES) about an online video showing a man hand-feeding a wild dolphin.

Senior Wildlife Officer Tina Ball said wildlife officers from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) reviewed the video, which shows several adult dolphins and a calf approaching the boat.

“The video then shows the man cutting a mullet in pieces and feeding it to one of the adult dolphins on several occasions,” Ms Ball said.

“During the investigation, the man admitted to hand feeding a wild dolphin at Snapper Creek while his brother recorded the interaction.

“Both brothers told wildlife officers they were not aware it was an offence to feed wild dolphins as they knew people could pay to feed dolphins at Barnacles Café, Tin Can Bay.

“Strict conditions apply to the feeding activities at Barnacles Café, including the type and the amount of fish the dolphins can be fed, and how long the fish can be frozen for to ensure freshness.

“This is a regulated activity overseen by the department and ensures the dolphins don’t receive their daily food intake at Barnacles Café and continue to hunt for fish in the wild.

“The fine of $431 is much lower than the maximum fine a court can impose for feeding a wild dolphin, which sits at $11,500.

“People in boats and swimming in the water also need to give dolphins space, and must keep at least 50 metres away if they are in the water.

“Skippers must not approach within 150 metres in front of and behind a pod of dolphins and 50 metres if approaching from the sides of the pod.

“If a dolphin approaches a boat within these distances the skipper must disengage the gears or withdraw from the area at a speed less than six knots.

“People who ignore these rules risk maximum penalties up to $17,000.”

Ms Ball said unregulated feeding of wild dolphins increases the risk of health issues from being fed fish that is not fresh or part of their natural diet, such as pilchards.

“There are other risks that people must be aware of, including dolphins associating boats and people with free food,” she said.

“This can put wild dolphins in danger of being struck by vessels or becoming entangled in fishing gear if they begin to approach boats for food.

“Hand-feeding wild dolphins can also interfere with their natural hunting behaviour and their natural pod behaviour.

“People are advised not to attempt to touch or feed a marine mammal, unless it is part of an authorised dolphin feeding program.”

Members of the public are encouraged to report any suspected illegal dolphin interactions by calling 1300 130 372 or email at

Further information on dolphin feeding is available at: Rules for watching marine mammals.