US bans popular tourist activity to save Hawaii’s dolphins
One of the most popular tourist activities in Hawaii is swimming with bottlenose dolphins. This practice, however, has now been banned to protect dolphins.
Many companies in Hawaii offer tours that take swimmers to areas frequented by bottlenose dolphins. Once there, people have the opportunity to get in the water with the dolphins. The problem is, biologists have been saying for years that the practice stresses dolphins.
Earlier this week, after a multi-year effort, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pass a rule under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to protect Hawaii’s long-beaked dolphins and “prevent their disturbance.” The bottom line is that people and ships will not be able to approach within 50 meters of dolphins from October 28, 2021.
Hawaiian Long-Beaked Dolphins
Long-billed dolphins, which can be around 6.5 feet long, live in the warm waters of the ocean. There are several populations all over the world: near Thailand, along the Pacific Ocean coast in Central America, and, of course, around the Hawaiian Islands. They travel in groups called schools, which can number in the hundreds.
“Long-billed dolphins are the acrobats of the ocean”, the National Wildlife Federation Explain. “They love to jump, turn and twist above the surface of the water. Long-billed dolphins earned their name due to their ability to spin multiple times in a single jump. Scientists believe they rotate for several reasons, including communication, eliminating parasites, and just for fun.
Dolphins are carnivorous, eating fish and squid. At night, long-billed dolphins swim to deeper waters to hunt and eat. Then, in the morning, they return to the shallows to rest, play, socialize and hide from sharks.
The problem is, humans experience all of these behaviors.
“Like all animals, Hawaii’s long-beaked dolphins need rest,” NOAA Explain. “But for decades, Hawaii’s long-beaked dolphins have come under intense visual pressure from commercial and recreational wildlife watchers seeking close encounters with charismatic marine mammals.”
A long-awaited decision
Biologists have worried about dolphins for years.
Indeed, the continued – and growing – presence of humans may cause long-beaked dolphins to “abandon their habitat and experience increasing health problems,” Ann Garrett, deputy regional administrator for the National Marine’s Pacific Islands regional office. Fisheries Service, noted in 2016, when the rule was first proposed.
“We can’t function as well as we could without a good night’s sleep, and neither can they,” said Garrett. “Over time their health can be affected and they also may not be raising the young. They could even abandon their young or their habitat, and they could experience long-term impacts on the population. “
The NOAA rule reads: “NOAA Fisheries announces final rule to improve protection of Hawaii’s long-beaked dolphins and prevent their disturbance.” This rule prohibits swimming with, approaching, or staying within 50 meters of a Hawaiian long-beaked dolphin (for people, vessels, and objects), including the intercept approach, or to place a ship, person or other object in the path of a Hawaiian long-beaked dolphin. so that the dolphin approaches within 50 meters of the vessel, person or object (eg “leapfrog”). “
The statement goes on to note that the rule “applies within 2 nautical miles of the shore of the Major Hawaiian Islands (MHI) and in the designated waters bounded by the islands of Lāna’i, Maui and Kaho’olawe”.
You can still see the dolphins
Don’t worry if you are planning a trip to Hawaii and want to see bottlenose dolphins, you can still see them.
NOAA says dolphin and wildlife tours can continue in Hawaii as long as boats and people are kept more than 50 meters away from bottlenose dolphins. In the event that a person or a boat inadvertently gets too close to a bottlenose dolphin, or if the dolphin does approach it, NOAA says no effort can be made to engage or chase the animal. . The person or the boat should also take immediate steps to move away.