Feds Want to Ban Swimming With Hawaii Dolphins | NBC Southern California
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Feds Want to Ban Swimming With Hawaii Dolphins

Swimming with dolphins is popular with visitors and some locals, with dozens of companies on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island operating dolphin tours daily.

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    A woman is pulled by two bottlenose dolphins during the structured swim May 4, 2001 at the Dolphins Plus marine mammal research and education center in Key Largo, Florida.

    Federal regulators are proposing to ban swimming with dolphins in Hawaii, a move that could imperil one of the Aloha State's most popular tourist delights and the industry that has sprung up around it.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service says Hawaii's spinner dolphins -- the nocturnal species that humans usually frolic with -- are being deprived of rest during the day and becoming stressed out.

    The agency was expected to announce the proposal Tuesday.

    Swimming with dolphins is popular with visitors and some locals, with dozens of companies on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island operating dolphin tours daily.

    Watch: Senators Pay Tribute to Joe Biden With Speeches

    [NATL] Watch: Senators Pay Tribute to Joe Biden With Humor, Remembrances
    Vice President Joe Biden was honored with an emotional bi-partisan tribute on the Senate chamber floor on Dec. 7. 2016. Senators on both sides of the aisle were on the same page as they stepped up to express their admiration and gratitude to the outgoing vice president. An emotional Biden sat in the presiding chair during the moving tribute, which latest for more than two hours as lawmakers celebrated their colleague. (Published Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016)

    The proposed rule could shut down or greatly disrupt the industry as it now operates. That's because the ban would cover waters out to 2 nautical miles, which is where 98 percent of Hawaii's spinner dolphins rest after they've spent the night feeding. Tour companies take customers to these nearshore waters to find dolphins.

    Ann Garrett, assistant regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service's protected resources division for the Pacific Islands, said dolphins have been found to be burning calories at a higher rate because they are forced to be vigilant as people approach their pods.

    "All of these things can contribute to a reduction of fitness over time -- this kind of chronic level of stress. That's what we're concerned about," Garrett said.

    The agency plans to hold public meetings on the proposal next month and expects to make a final decision on the regulations next year.

    'Late Night': Moore Wants Trump to Have More Briefings

    [NATL] 'Late Night': Michael Moore Wants Trump to Attend More Briefings
    Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore talks to host Seth Meyers about how important it is for President-elect Donald Trump to keep America safe. (Published Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016)

    Hawaii's spinner dolphins -- which get their name because they're known for leaping in the air and spinning around -- eat fish and small crustaceans that surface from the ocean depths at night. At daybreak, they gather in shallow bays to hide from tiger sharks and other predators.

    When they sleep, they rest half their brains and keep the other half awake so that they can surface and breathe. As a result, they can appear awake and active even when they are asleep.

    Survivors, Veterans Observe 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

    [NATL] Survivors, Veterans Observe 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
    Veterans and survivors gather in Oahu, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 2016 to observe the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor surprise attack 75 years ago. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016)

    Unlike the better-known bottlenose and other dolphin species in Hawaii waters, they are highly predictable in their behavior, returning to the same general area every day. That makes them easy for tour groups to find.

    The federal agency is also proposing to require swimmers and vessels to stay at least 50 yards away from the dolphins. If the animals approach swimmers, the humans must make no effort to engage them and immediately move away, Garrett said.

    Time Picks Trump for 2016 Person of the Year

    [NATL] Time Picks Trump for 2016 Person of the Year
    Time Magazine announced President-elect Donald Trump as its 2016 Person of the Year on Dec. 7, 2016, labeling the real estate mogul "President of the Divided States of America" on its cover. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016)

    The prohibitions would cover waters up to 2 miles off the main Hawaiian Islands. It would also apply farther from shore in designated waters between Maui, Lanai and Kahoolawe islands.