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Public Hearing Set on Rule Closing Bays to Protect Dolphins

December 8, 2021, 12:00 PM HST
* Updated December 8, 3:47 PM
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A virtual public hearing Thursday will give the public a chance to weigh in on a proposed rule that would establish time-area closures of some Big Island bays in order to protect Hawaiian spinner dolphins while they rest.

The rule, brought forward by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, was announced Sept. 28, and is the second of two changes of regulation aimed at protecting the popular, nocturnal mammal from too much contact with people.

In September, U.S. regulators banned swimmers or boaters from getting within 50 feet of spinner dolphins within 2 nautical miles of shore. Swimming with dolphins has long been popular tourist activity around the islands.

The second, proposed rule would implement mandatory time-area closures from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily in essential daytime habitats for spinner dolphins, NOAA said in a press release Wednesday on the public hearing. The affected areas on Hawaii Island would be Kealakekua Bay, Hōnaunau Bay, Kauhakō Bay (Ho‘okena), and Makako Bay, as well as at La Perouse Bay on Maui. 

Spinner dolphins get their name because of their habit of leaping from the water and spinning in the air. Known as playful animals, they also hunt in offshore waters at night and use protected bays and areas close to shore to sleep, hide from predators and nurture their young.

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The public hearing runs from 5-8 p.m. Thursday and can be accessed here. The password is dolphin. A call-in option is at 1 415-527-5035, with an access code of 276 477 10691.

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Advanced registration is encouraged but not required. Register here. NOAA Fisheries is accepting comments on the issue through Dec. 27. 

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