33 Swimmers Referred to U.S. Law Enforcement for 'Actively Pursuing' Pod of Dolphins in Hawaii

It is a federal crime in the state to approach or swim within 50 yards of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin, according to NOAA

Thirty-three people have been referred to U.S. federal law enforcement for allegedly harassing a pod of dolphins off the coast of Hawaii, state authorities said.

Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) said in a press release that a large group of swimmers "actively pursued" the marine mammals in Hōnaunau Bay, located on the southwestern coast of the state's Big Island, on Sunday morning.

The agency said that they received drone video and photographs that appear to show a group of swimmers "aggressively pursuing, corralling, and harassing" the dolphins. Officers from the DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement contacted the group in the water to make them aware of the violation, and then uniformed officers on land met the group once they got back to the shore.

Following the incident, an investigation was launched by the DLNR and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s enforcement divisions.

It is a federal crime in the state to approach or swim within 50 yards of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin, according to NOAA. The rule, which was implemented in 2021 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, applies to any person swimming or in a boat, canoe or paddle board within 2 nautical miles from the shores of the main Hawaiian islands.

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

According to the rule, people who accidentally come within 50 yards of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin or are approached by one who "make no effort to engage or pursue the animal" or try to move away from it won't receive a penalty.

Hawaii has numerous prohibitions put in place to protect marine wildlife, including monk seals, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Hawaii law.

RELATED Video: 60-Year-Old Swimmer Attacked and Injured by a Seal in Hawaii: 'This Poor Woman Was Terrified'

In July, one woman was injured while swimming off the shore of Hawaii when a mother monk seal attacked her while defending her pup.

Video taken of the incident showed the seal pulling the woman underwater for a few moments before she was later helped to shore by bystanders and a man in a boat.

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The woman, who was not publicly identified, suffered cuts to her face, back, and arm, but was not seriously injured, local news station KITV reported.

DLNR's investigation concluded that the woman did nothing to provoke the incident.

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