NOAA's Proposed Time Area Closure

Spinner Dolphin Core Resting Areas
We support NOAAs Proposed Rule to Establish Time-Area Closures of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins’ Essential Habitats in the Main Hawaiian Islands. However, it needs to be extended to include additional core resting areas in the Islands, including, but not limited to, critical resting habitat in Hulopoe bay and Manele bay on the Island of Lanai'i.  

NOAA's Final Rule to Prohibit Swimming With and Approaching Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins.

Distance Limit

We support NOAA's Final Rule to Prohibit Swimming With and Approaching Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, but do not think it is going far enough.  The observations in this study suggest that, in order to be effective in not disturbing the dolphins the distance limit needs to be extended from 50 yds (46m) to 100 yds (91m), as is currently applied for marine mammal species covered by the endangered species act (ESA) and promoted by the Alaska regional office of NOAA Fisheries.

 

The data in this study, using aerial behavior as an indicator of disturbance, suggest that these dolphins can be disturbed from farther away than 50 yds.

In addition to a distance limit, it is also important to restrict the number of vessels around the school, since dolphin schools in several locations may spend some or most of their resting time, slowly swimming along the coastline while resting. One example of this is along the Kohala Coast, where spinner dolphin schools were displaced from their resting area when Kawaihae harbor was built. They now often congregate north of the harbor in the morning and then slowly move north along the coast.

 

In 2003, as part of a 6-week course on marine protected species, 16 boat captains and field staff from all but one of nine tour companies operating on the Kona Coast at the time, participated in a one-day on-the-water-practicum. All participants were found to overestimate distances on the water, when compared to measurements with a laser-range finder, including captains with many years of on the water experience. The vessel was then taken to 100m offshore of a school of spinner dolphins, slowly moving down the coast in the mid-morning.  As the vessel was kept 100m offshore of the main part of the school, paralleling the last subgroup, a few sub-adult and juvenile animals approached the vessel and came to the bow, while the rest of the school, including all adults, remained relatively undisturbed and continued along the coastline. At the time, all course participants agreed that they had never seen a dolphin school behave that way before and they were amazed at the great views of the dolphins and some of the ‘new’ behaviors they had seen.