State and federal agencies are advising people to avoid potential harassment of spinner dolphins and are reminding ocean- and beachgoers to maintain the recommended 150 feet away from the dolphins.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service said that Hawaiian spinner dolphins move near shore into bays and coves during the day to rest, to care for their young and to avoid predators. During this time, it is important not to disturb them because these activities are critical to their survival.
At night, they move offshore to feed.
Spinner dolphins are named for their unique behavior of leaping out of the water and spinning in the air. These social animals travel in groups of 10 to 100 or more and are believed to live for more than 20 years.
"It is tempting to approach and interact with these animals. However, research has shown that these interactions can interfere with their natural behavior and could have populationwide effects," said William J. Aila Jr., DLNR chairperson.
"Close interactions with the dolphins are not only potentially harmful to them but can lead to harassment, which is illegal," NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator Michael Tosatto added.
The Hawaiian spinner dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the harassment, hunting, capture or killing of the dolphins.
DLNR and NOAA Fisheries advise oceangoers to:
* Stay at least 150 feet from dolphins.
* Move away cautiously if dolphins show signs of disturbance.
* Always put boat engines in neutral when dolphins are near.
* Refrain from feeding, touching or swimming with wild dolphins.
* Teach others to be dolphin SMART.
The Dolphin SMART program recognizes commercial tour operators who voluntarily adhere to responsible guidelines. For more information and a list of approved businesses, go to www.dolphinsmart.org.
Report any violations to NOAA Fisheries' Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.