Over 30 swimmers are being accused of “pursuing, corralling, and harassing,” a pod of dolphins in Hōnaunau Bay Sunday, Hawaiian authorities reported Tuesday.
The incident occurred Sunday, the entire scene captured on video by officers during a routine patrol of the South Kona District. Following the alleged “active” and “aggressive” pursuit of the dolphin pod, Hawaii’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement opened cases against all 33 swimmers, who remain unidentified.
Authorities were waiting on the shore for the swimmers, informing them of the impending investigation when they exited the water. The NOAA Office of Law Enforcement is assisting in the investigation.
Most of the swimmers involved in the harassment appear to be young adults, while others could be juveniles. According to the United States Marine Mammal Act, it’s illegal to feed or harass marine mammals in the wild. This means maintaining a distance of 50 yards from Hawaii’s spinner dolphin pods.
Doing so can not only disrupt the natural behavior of wildlife but cause contamination and result in “problem” animals. As such, breaking this law carries a hefty penalty. According to NOAA, a violation of the MMA can result in an $11,000 fine and a 1-year prison sentence.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first such incident this month. In fact, it occurred just two weeks after officials slammed a man who goes by the name “Dolphin Dave” with citations for harassing humpback whales and a dolphin pod near the Big Island.
Hawaii Man Accused of Harassing Humpback Whales and Dolphin Pod
“Dolphin Dave,” a Maui, Hawaii, resident, faced accusations of harassing humpback whales and a dolphin pod earlier this month after filming himself doing so. After posting the footage to Facebook, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) received a high volume of calls regarding the illegal nature of the encounter.
“65-year-old David Jiménez of Maui was cited this morning at Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii Island after the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) received numerous calls reporting alleged wildlife harassment,” the DLNR reported on Facebook.
“Jiménez was allegedly actively pursuing an adolescent humpback whale and dolphins inside Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park. On Sunday, DOCARE officers received a video recording of a man snorkeling close enough to the adolescent humpback whale to almost touch the whale’s fin.”
When officials arrived to inform Jiménez of the illegality of his actions, they spotted him pursuing a pod of dolphins. To make matters worse, he encouraged others to chase the animals as well. The DLNR officers caught both of these illegal actions on video.
Officials then cited Jiménez for violating two Hawaii Administrative Rules. The first protects endangered whale species and the second prevents the harassment of wildlife in state parks. Jiménez is set to appear in court in May.
When asked about the incident, however, Jiménez expressed no regret. Instead, he boldly stated that “he’s not going to stop swimming with whales and dolphins.” He argued that “others do much worse things” and that swimming near whales and dolphin pods is “magical.”