A federal agency wants to keep humans away from dolphins and ban swimming with dolphins in the Hawaiian Islands, one of the main attractions of the area.
The main argument is that swimming with dolphins can harm the animals and disturb their sleeping habits.
The spinner dolphins sleep by day and feed by night, while humans have an opposite approach to swimming and water activities.
The Pacific Islands administrator of NOAA Office of Protected Resources said that spinner dolphins are extremely stressed by activities such as kayaking and swimming near their resting areas.
The touristic activities can also modify group behavior patterns and can trigger individual responses that are not easy to observe, such as increased vigilance or elevated heart rates.
The local entrepreneurs fear that banning the swimming with dolphins’ activities might have a great impact on their business. Many people expect quality interaction with the cute, smart and beautiful marine creatures.
NOAA officials insist that the wildlife tours should continue, even if people will no longer be allowed to swim with the dolphins and disturb their sleeping habits.
The new rules would interdict approaching dolphins at a distance shorter than 50 yards. Moreover, the regulations say that all activities involving spinner dolphins should be closed.
The officials believe that the ban will have financial consequences on both long and short term.
Even so, NOAA sets the rules on how people should interact with animals and experts to believe that the commercial interests should not come first.
The federal agency estimates that there are dozens of small businesses that rely on swimming with dolphins and wildlife tours. The total value of the commercial activities is said to be more than $7.5 million per each family business.
There is 33 dolphins swim tours and other spiritual retreats that involve dolphin encounters. Other 40 dolphin tour boats companies and general tour providers operate in Hawaii.
The local businesspeople accept the fact that some tour operators come too close to dolphins, but they would rather see what happens if the existing rules are properly enforced. They also said that the dolphins come to swim with humans, and not the other way around.
The wildlife experts disagree and say that swimmers target shallow waters where the dolphins and resting and take care of their young. One study shows that 83% of human interactions take place at a time when the animals are asleep.
Another study showed a situation when more than a dozen boaters were chasing a single dolphin group.
Harassment is also illegal, but NOAA is now worried that the animals might not get enough sleep, and this will affect their health.
Image Source: Flickr
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