Authorities in Hawaii are investigating after 33 swimmers reportedly pursued a pod of dolphins March 26, according to officials from Hawaii’s Departments of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
During a routine patrol of Hōnaunau Bay off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii near Kona, DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officers found that a large group of swimmers was actively chasing a pod of dolphins, according to a press release from DLNR. Video footage taken by drone and photographs reportedly show the swimmers not only chasing the dolphins but aggressively corralling and harassing the pod, in violation of federal law.
Authorities in Hawaii say they have referred 33 people to U.S. law enforcement after the group allegedly harassed a pod of wild dolphins. It’s against federal law to swim within 50 yards of spinner dolphins in Hawaii’s nearshore waters. https://t.co/qj4H4RtFkL
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 29, 2023
The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 makes it illegal for a U.S. citizen to “harass, hunt, capture, collect or kill” marine mammals on the high seas and applies to anyone within the 200 miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the U.S., and within any other U.S. territory. Harassment, as defined by the act, includes any pursuit, torment or annoyance of the animals.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) further enhanced the protection of Hawaii’s spinner dolphins in 2021 and “prohibits swimming with, approaching, or remaining within 50 yards of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin.” (RELATED: 8 Dolphins Died In One Day Off NJ Coast, Adding To List Of Marine Life Tragedies Potentially Linked To Offshore Wind Projects)
DOCARE officers approached the group of 33 swimmers and alerted them to their harassment violation and have opened a joint investigation into the incident with NOAA law enforcement authorities.
A similar incident occurred earlier in March, when police cited a 65-year-old man who nicknamed himself “Dolphin Dave” for allegedly harassing a whale and a pod of dolphins at Kealakekua Bay, also off the coast of the Big Island Of Hawaii. He told authorities from DLNR he had no plans to stop swimming with whales and dolphins “because it’s magical and others do much worse things,” according to Hawaii News Now.