Hawaii & Alaska
Spinner dolphins are nocturnal and have for years suffered disruptions from tourists who come to swim in the coves where they go to get their necessary rest during the day. Doug Perrine/Alamy Stock Photo

HI - Spinner dolphins finally get the much-needed protection they deserve

Hawaiian spinner dolphins, named for their acrobatic displays like leaping out of the water and spinning in the air, are nocturnal. To make it harder for sharks to detect them, they hunt for food and socialize at night.

During the day, they rest in sheltered coves—safe from sharks and other ocean dangers. Because dolphins must be conscious in order to breathe, in these coves they still swim and breathe slowly while doing their version of “napping.”

But wild Hawaiian spinner dolphins have become a tourist attraction. Tour operators take tourists out to see and swim near the dolphins. Although some tour operators instruct their passengers to stay at least 50 yards from the dolphins to minimize the possibility of disturbing the resting dolphins, many do not. Unfortunately, this means that the animals have been faced with groups of tourists coming into their coves and interrupting their rest. These tourism activities can severely disrupt the dolphins’ ability to achieve a natural resting state, causing negative impacts on the wider population of spinner dolphins over time, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Now, in a win for dolphins and responsible wildlife tourism, the NMFS has finalized a rule mandating that swimmers maintain a distance of at least 50 yards from these dolphins in waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. The agency also proposed mandatory closures from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. at five sites in the main Hawaiian Islands.

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