Hawaii authorities investigate 33 swimmers for harassing dolphins


Federal law enforcement is investigating a group of 33 swimmers who allegedly harassed a pod of dolphins in Hawaii. The state's Department of Land and Natural Resources reported that drone videos and photographs showed the group aggressively pursuing, corralling, and harassing the pod in the Hōnaunau Bay. Officers with the DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement flagged down the group while they were in the water and alerted them of their violation. When the swimmers got back to land, officers from the DLNR and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were waiting. DLNR officers are authorized "to enforce federal marine laws, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act," which was amended in 2021 to prohibit swimming, approaching or being within 50 yards of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin within two nautical miles of the shores of the main Hawaiian islands and other designated waters.

According to the DLNR, the group of swimmers could face serious consequences if found guilty of harassing dolphins in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The maximum penalty for violating the law is up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The incident has raised concerns about the impact of human activity on wildlife and the need for greater protections for marine mammals.

Swimmers with the dolphins.

Harassment of marine mammals, including dolphins, has become a serious issue in Hawaii and other parts of the world. In recent years, there have been a growing number of incidents involving swimmers and tourists who get too close to these creatures, disrupting their natural behavior and causing them to become stressed and disoriented. This can have a significant impact on the health and well-being of the animals, as well as the overall ecosystem.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act is intended to protect these animals from harm, but enforcement has been challenging. With the increase in human activity in and around the waters of Hawaii, there is a growing need for greater education and awareness about the importance of protecting marine mammals and their habitats. The incident in Hōnaunau Bay serves as a reminder of the consequences of violating these laws and the importance of responsible behavior around marine wildlife.

The incident in Hōnaunau Bay is just one of many examples of the challenges facing marine wildlife in Hawaii and around the world. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), more than a third of all marine mammal species are currently threatened with extinction due to human activities such as overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Protecting these animals and their habitats is critical to preserving the health of our oceans and the many species that depend on them. By working together to raise awareness and promote responsible behavior, we can help ensure that these creatures continue to thrive for generations to come.