Swimming with dolphins ban discussed

LIHUE — The federal proposal to ban swimming with dolphins will be the focus of a public meeting at 5 tonight at Kauai High School.

The meeting will be a chance to dive into the proposed rules and weigh in on potential, community-created alternatives.

The new regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act would prohibit swimming with and approaching a Hawaiian spinner dolphin within 50 yards, including approach by interception, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposal.

The rule would apply to waters within two nautical miles of the Hawaiian Islands and in waters between the islands of Lanai, Maui, and Kahoolawe.

“The proposed rule to establish 50-yard swim-with and approach regulations would help ensure public compliance by providing clear notice of prohibited conduct that results in take, including harassment and disturbance,” the NOAA proposal states.

While widening the definition of “take” to clarify those specific human activities that would disturb the marine mammals, the NOAA proposal also leaves room for establishing other measures to protect the dolphins, if deemed appropriate.

Representatives of Kohola Leo, in a press release sent to TGI, said members of the organization think it may be premature to create more rules around swimming with the dolphins without the oversight of observing firsthand what happens with tour operators in Hawaiian waters.

The meeting is one of six that are happening throughout the state in the month of September.

Draft Environmental Impact Statements are available for review at the public libraries on Kauai currently and the public comment deadline on the proposed new regulations is Oct. 23, by 5 p.m.

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