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Federal official take action to protect Hawaii dolphins

August 26, 2021 GMT

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — Federal officials have taken a step toward protecting Hawaii’s spinner dolphins.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a final environmental impact statement that proposes limiting how close people can get to spinner dolphins, West Hawaii Today reported Thursday.

The proposal sets a 50 yards (45.72 meters) barrier around the dolphins for swimmers, vessels and aircraft. It would also prohibit putting people or vehicles in the path of the mammals.

If approved, the measure would limit interactions within 2 nautical miles (3.70 kilometers) of Hawaii’s shores.

“In recent years these dolphins face intense pressure from increasing dolphin-viewing activities,” NOAA Fisheries stated in an online Q&A. “Surrounded by people and vessels throughout the day, the dolphins resting and recuperation can be disrupted.”

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The environmental impact statement is the latest step in a process that’s been in development for more than a decade.

State and county officials have supported the measure.

After Aug. 30, NOAA can make a final agency decision. If approved, a final rule would usually go into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Violators could face fines up to $11,000, a year in prison and forfeiture of vessels involved.

There are exceptions, including when dolphins approach swimmers or vessels and when a vessel must maintain safe navigation.