This summer, more than 10 years after filing an initial notice of its intent to consider regulations, NOAA is set to propose its new rules.
The agency, Garrett said, is “considering a range of options, including restricting swimming, instituting approach regulations (distance restrictions), and time area closures (closing certain bays during certain daytime hours),” as well as any combination of the three.
Today, a small number of Hawaii tour companies voluntarily participate in a NOAA program called Dolphin SMART. Designed to minimize harassment to dolphins, the program encourages commercial tour operators to stay 50 yards away from dolphins and to move away cautiously if the animals show signs of disturbance.
NOAA’s new rules, however, would not be voluntary, and could affect more than 200 dolphin-related businesses operating in the state, as well as swimmers and other ocean users, the AP reports.
Garrett told HuffPost that establishing rules would “help level the playing field” by keeping aggressive tour companies from chasing down dolphin pods.
The ultimate goal of the changes, she said, will be to provide additional protections for dolphins while still offering “an opportunity for people to have an enjoyable wildlife experience.”
REPORTING ON HAWAII’S BIGGEST ISSUES
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