Agency Plans to Nix Dolphin Encounters

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries service has proposed limits on close encounters with wild spinner dolphins in the Hawaiian Islands due to a dramatic increase in close interactions. The proposal was prompted by concerns voiced by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, representative of the Native Hawaiian community, scientific researchers, wildlife conservation organizations, and even some commercial tour operators.
     Many of the encounters between people and the wild dolphins, either through commercial boat tours, or individuals on their own, do not follow established viewing guidelines, and there has been an increase in close vessel or in-water encounters with dolphins during the day, when they are trying to rest from their nighttime foraging, the agency says.
     Though the dolphins are already protected under blanket prohibitions on harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the newly proposed rule would target specific human activities in specific areas by establishing a 50-yard swim-with and approach buffer in waters within 2 nautical miles of the Hawaiian Islands and the waters between the islands of Lanai, Maui and Kahoolawe.
     The agency requests comments by Oct. 23, and has scheduled six public meetings in the Hawaiian Islands in September.

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