The Kiawah River between Johns Island and Kiawah is home to a group of twenty two resident dolphins that live here year round.   The Kiawah River  dolphins are bottlenose dolphins or “tursiops truncatus”, a genus within the delphinidae family of the cetacean order.     The Kiawah River dolphins are well   known for their unique feeding behavior called “strand feeding”.   The dolphins, most often in groups of four, congregate at the mouth of the river between Sam’s Spit and Seabrook’s north beach.   They swim along the bank herding fish up against the shore.   Then they turn towards the shore and rush the fish up onto the bank where the dolphins come part way out of the water to catch the stranded mullet.   These dolphins have been closely observed over the last ten years.   Dolphins often have distinctive dorsal fin markings by which they can be identified.  Ã‚  This standard, noninvasive procedure has been used to identify the Kiawah River dolphins and track both their daily and seasonal movements.   Each has been given a descriptive name that corresponds to the features on their  fins; hence “Hook” at right who has a larger than normal curve on his fin.   Hook is one of the senior males in the group and is often seen with “Scratch” in what is known in dolphin society as a coalition; kind of like fraternity brothers.   The number of strand feedings has been on the decline recently as more sightseers crowd the beach and boat traffic,including kayaks, is on the rise.   During the fall the dolphins must bulk up for the winter when fish are scarce.   Interference with their traditional feeding habits can become a  threat to their survival and is prohibited by law.  Ã‚  Ã‚  NOAA guidelines for both dolphins and sea turtles advise sightseers to stay 50 yards away.   These guidelines are based on the The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 which prohibits “harassment† of dolphins.   This means “any act of annoyance … which has the potential to disturb a marine mammal in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns including, … feeding”   The Johns Island Conservancy has recently undertaken a project with the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Committee (CCPRC) to install a sign at Beachwalker County Park to educate sightseers on the proper guidelines for viewing the dolphins strand feeding on Sam’s Spit.   The sign will be installed by the end of 2012.