Why Your Dream Of Swimming With Hawaii Dolphins May Never Come True

Swimming alongside wild dolphins has long been a Hawaii vacation bucket-list item.

While getting up close and personal with Hawaii spinner dolphins might seem innocent, scientists are concerned that increased human interactions may harm the animals by disturbing a critical period of their rest.

“We have seen changes in their behavior,” Ann Garrett of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service told The Huffington Post. “They’ll be more active with people around.”

As a result, the service’s Pacific Islands Regional Office is advancing a proposed rule change that would, at some level, restrict swimming with the beloved species.

Spinner dolphins are nocturnal. After feeding in deep water at night, the animals return to sheltered, shallow bays to rest during the day. The potential problem arises when swimmers draw them out of their resting state, a change in behavior that NOAA points out “may constitute harassment,” which is illegal under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

A study published last year in the Journal of Applied Ecology, for example, found that over a three-year period, spinner dolphins off Hawaii’s Big Island were “chronically and repeatedly exposed to human activities” more than 82 percent of the time.

Ultimately, NOAA says disturbing the animals in their nearshore habitat could force them to retreat to less favorable locations, putting them at risk of attack by sharks and other predators.

“Disturbing their resting behaviors can actually affect their long-term health and the health of the population,” Garrett told The Associated Press.

This summer, more than 10 years after filing an initial notice of its intent to consider regulations, NOAA is set to propose its new rules.

The agency, Garrett said, is “considering a range of —> Read More