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Dolphins: Harrassed, Endangered, Totally Appealling


Sea Party by Juvetson via Flickr

A small population of dolphins that live near Hawaii and resemble killer whales could be placed on the endangered species list, a federal agency said yesterday. Such an action could affect Hawaii-based longline fishing boats, which have accidentally snagged the dolphins — called false killer whales — in the past. — Hawaii Star Bulletin

It’s fairly common to see spinner dolphins messing around in the surf when you go out on the snorkel tours in the islands, the black dolphin or false killer whale — so called because they look vaguely like orcas — is less common and now, we know why.

The fishery is accidentally killing or seriously injuring an average of 7.4 false killer whales each year in waters off Hawaii, the National Marine Fisheries Service said in a Federal Register notice. That exceeds the 2.5 per year that the population can lose without hurting its ability to sustain itself. — The Maui News

Spinners aren’t endangered, but they’ve got their own worries. Operators will take you out to swim with them in their waters and not everyone thinks this is a great idea, it can be super stressful on the dolphin population. There’s criticism on the Wild Dolphin Foundation’s website — they recommend you participate in a Dolphin Smart tour, which you can learn more about  here. Places like Sea Life Park and the Hilton Waikaloa Village have swim with the dolphins “experiences” where you’ll climb in to a pool, but  these contained adventures have their critics too. If you want to learn more about Hawaii’s dolphins, there’s the Dolphin Institute — they have lots of educational programs but not much for folks who are just passing through the islands on a visit.

There’s no denying that it’s a magical thing to see dolphins skipping around in the open ocean. I’d probably explode from excitement were I to participate in a dolphin encounter of any kind, be it in a tank or in the open water. And I know I’d walk away feeling a lot better about the whole thing if the adventure were approved by a conservation organization. Sail Hawaii works with the Wild Dolphin Foundation and that seems like a good thing.

My advice?  Ask your tour provider whether they partner with conversation efforts before booking a trip. If you want to see dolphins — and really, who doesn’t — why not make sure the company that’s showing them to you has their best interests in mind?

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