Authorities in Hawaii are proposing a ban on the popular tourist activity of swimming with dolphins off the Hawaiian coast. The dolphins have served as a magnet for tourists over the past few decades. However, federal officials say the increasing tourism is harmful to the dolphins because they are supposed to be resting and socializing. The National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposes to prohibit swimming with, or approaching within 50 metres of, Hawaii's spinner dolphins. That would put an end to many tour group activities, which involve sailing alongside the creatures in a boat and snorkeling with them.
Ann Garrett, a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said she didn't think the ban would have a big impact on the tourist trade in Hawaii. Ms Garrett said: "We think that by identifying 50 metres as the minimum distance, there still can be a viable tourist industry in Hawaii." Tour operators disagreed with Garrett's assessment. Tour company owner Kevin Merrill warned: "It would be the end of legitimate dolphin swimming. We couldn’t offer the people the quality interaction that they expect." Dolphins typically are most active at night and sleep and relax during the day, which is when the tourists interact with them. Garrett said the interaction disrupts the dolphins' health and fitness.