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November 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 33, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A New Spin on Dolphin-Human Interactions

from the November, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

People who swim with spinner dolphins aren't doing them any favors. That's why the National Marine Fisheries Service has issued a video giving six reasons why you shouldn't. The main one: It could disturb their rest, potentially harming them. Dolphins feed offshore at night and return to coastal waters in daylight hours to rest, socialize, tend their young and avoid predators. If their rest is repeatedly interrupted, it can affect their health, behavior and reproductive success.

Although they may not appear to be sleeping, spinner dolphins move and breathe from the surface while resting, so it's important to give them enough space -- say 50 yards -- so that they can get enough sleep to survive. If they are regularly disturbed, they may be forced to move to a different and less appropriate location. Hawaiian spinner dolphins choose sheltered areas with sandy bottoms that allow them to easily see predators approaching.

Wild dolphins must maintain their natural behaviors to survive in the wild. Although naturally curious, this should not be interpreted as friendly behavior, so if a dolphin approaches you in the water, do not engage with, follow or interact with it.

Another good reason to follow these rules is a financial one. Swimming with dolphins in U.S. waters may constitute harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Violations can be prosecuted in court and are punishable by fines of up to $100,000 and/or up to a year in jail.

Watch NOAA's video (at the bottom of the page) at www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/six-reasons-why-you-should-not-swim-wild-spinner-dolphins

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