- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Officials with the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources referred 33 swimmers to federal law enforcement, accusing them of violating a 2021 law against interacting with dolphins.

Since 2021, federal law prohibits swimming within 50 yards of spinner dolphins near the state’s shorelines. Conservationists fear that dolphins can become so busy swimming with tourists, the mammals can’t get enough rest to find food nocturnally.

The 33 swimmers were in Honaunau Bay off the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii on Sunday morning when Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers saw them and the dolphins.

Video posted by officials on Vimeo shows the pod of dolphins swimming away from the humans, splitting into two groups.

In a statement, Hawaiian DLNR officials said the swimmers “appear to be aggressively pursuing, corralling and harassing the pod.”

DOCARE officers met the swimmers in the water to inform them of the violation. Additional officers on land began an investigation into the incident once the 33 people reached shore.

Officials did not specify whether swimming after the dolphins resulted in a criminal or civil penalty, nor what the price of a civil penalty would be.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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