Nearly three dozen people are being accused of harassing a pod of dolphins in Hōnaunau Bay, Hawaii officials announced Tuesday.
Thirty-three swimmers are accused of “pursuing, corralling, and harassing” the dolphins in Hōnaunau Bay on Sunday, according to a press release from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.
It’s against federal law to swim within 50 yards of spinner dolphins in Hawaii’s nearshore waters. The prohibition went into effect in 2021 amid concerns that so many tourists were swimming with dolphins that the nocturnal animals weren’t getting the rest they need during the day to be able to forage for food at night.
Officers with the agency’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement initiated cases against the swimmers during a routine patrol in the South Kona District.
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Officials released video and photos taken from a drone, which showed the harassment.
Authorities were waiting onshore for the swimmers when they left the water.
The names of the swimmers have not been released by officials.
Hawaii’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement are investigating, according to the statement.
See a dolphin? It may be trying to sleep
Hawaii’s spinner dolphins feast on fish and small crustaceans that surface from the ocean’s depths at night. When the sun rises, they head for shallow bays to hide from tiger sharks and other predators.
To the untrained eye, the dolphins appear to be awake during the day because they’re swimming.
But because they sleep by resting half of their brains and keeping the other half awake to surface and breathe, they may be sleeping even when they’re maneuvering through the water.
Contributing: Associated Press
Natalie Neysa Alund covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.