Feds Seek Ban on Swimming with Hawaii’s Dolphins

Spinner dolphins hunt at night, and government scientists claim tourists disrupt the marine mammals’ daytime sleep.

Government scientists are pushing to prohibit people from swimming with wild dolphins in Hawaii, arguing that it deprives them of essential sleep. Spinner dolphins spend their nights hunting for food and gather at dawn in shallow bays near shore to evade predators such as tiger sharks and sleep. If approved, the proposal by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service would make it illegal for people to swim or boat within 150 feet of dolphins. Enforcement would cover an area that stretches two nautical miles from Hawaii’s main coastline and in the waters between the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. With more than 200 tourist companies in the state offering interactive dolphin experiences, the new rule would dramatically affect how they do business, but some owners welcome and actively support the change, saying it is long overdue. The NOAA is accepting comments on the proposal through October 23 and will host public hearings on the matter in September.

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