Hawaii authorities announced that they have referred 33 people to U.S. law enforcement after the group of people allegedly harassed a pod of wild dolphins.
It is illegal to swim with Hawaii’s spinner dolphins because it can be harmful to their health and well-being. When humans swim with dolphins, it can cause stress to the animals, disrupt their natural behavior, and interfere with their feeding and resting patterns.
Spinner dolphins, in particular, are known to rest during the day in shallow, protected bays and nearshore waters. If they are repeatedly disturbed by human swimmers, it can prevent them from getting the rest they need, which can lead to negative impacts on their health, such as lowered immune system function, increased stress, and decreased reproductive success.
To protect Hawaii’s spinner dolphins and their habitat, federal regulations prohibit people from approaching, swimming with, or interacting with the dolphins within 50 yards (150 feet) of the animals, either by boat or in the water. There are also specific guidelines for tour operators and individuals who want to observe the dolphins from a safe distance.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a news release that officers came upon the 33 swimmers in Honaunau Bay during a routine patrol. Aerial footage shows snorkelers following dolphins as they swam away.
The department said that the videos and photos show swimmers who “appear to be aggressively pursuing, corralling and harassing the pod.” Officers reportedly confronted the group in the water and told them about the violations. They met the swimmers on land where the state and federal officials launched a joint investigation.
Hawaii’s spinner dolphins, also known as Hawaiian spinner dolphins, are a species of small dolphins found in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands. They are known for their acrobatic displays, which include leaping out of the water and spinning in the air.
Hawaii’s spinner dolphins are listed as “not threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but they are still protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the United States. Tourists and locals are advised to follow guidelines when observing spinner dolphins to prevent disturbance or harm.
It’s important to remember that while dolphins may seem friendly and playful, they are wild animals and should be treated with respect and caution to ensure their health and safety.
This article by Hailey Kanowsky was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 2 April 2023.
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