As a result of a ban by the US Congress on Tuesday, people will not be allowed to swim with spinner dolphins off Hawaii's coast.
New rules forbid people from getting within 50 yards of Hawaiian spinner Dolphins located within 2 miles of the coast of Hawaii. This rule does not only apply to swimmers but also to canoes, boats, paddleboards, and drones. It will effectively end many of the dolphin-watching tours group activities in Hawaii.
Spinner dolphins are nocturnal and rest in shallow bays during the day. This makes them easily accessible for tourists and allows them to be a target for tour groups that want to interact with them. Scientists warn that this interaction can have a negative impact on dolphins' well-being as it disturbs the creatures while they are relaxing, caring for their young, or recovering from a night of foraging offshore.
Dolphins' well-being is negatively affected by prolonged, close human-vessel interactions. Getty Images
"Spinner dolphins may resort to avoidance and distress behavior if they are disturbed during this critical period." A lack of uninterrupted, unperturbed rest periods can decrease their energy for hunting and caring after their young," states a statement by the National Marine Fisheries Service of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.
Even though spinner dolphins are able to "swim away," from humans or vessels, it interrupts their rest. NOAA Fisheries stated that it keeps spinner dolphins alert and requires them to use energy to speed up and change their direction. Long-term, close-up encounters with humans and vessels could cause spinner dolphins change their habitats. This could make them more vulnerable to predators.
According to the guidelines, the ban does not apply to persons or vessels that come within 50 feet of Hawaiian spinner dolphins or are approached by one.