Maui is home to many species of dolphins. The spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) is one of the more entertaining species. Commonly seen on Trilogy’s Discover Lana’i tour, spinners have a remarkable ability to spin around in full circles as they jump out of the big blue. These nocturnal feeders swim down to hunt for squid and fish in waters as deep as 1,000 ft. During the day, spinners rest by swimming slowly in a close pod in shallow water and bays. Unlike humans, dolphins are conscious breathers, so they rest half of their brain at a time. Imagine sleeping with one eye open in a state similar to that of a daydream. When people interact with spinner dolphins for too long, or get too close and disrupt their natural behavior, the dolphins are unable to get much needed rest for hunting at night. This disruption of a marine mammal’s natural behavior is termed ‘harassment’.
The regulations surrounding interaction with wild dolphins prohibit the feeding, attempting to feed, and harassment of marine mammals in the wild under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The dolphin SMART program is a joint development between NOAA’s office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Marine Fisheries Service, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and the Dolphin Ecology Project. The mission of the Dolphin SMART program is to promote responsible stewardship of wild dolphins in coastal waterways. For 2016, Trilogy has once again been recognized as a dolphin SMART operator. Dolphin SMART is a voluntary recognition and education program with the intent to:
- Minimize the potential of wild dolphin harassment.
- Reduce the expectations of close interaction with wild dolphins in a manner that may cause harassment.
- Eliminate advertising that creates expectations of engaging in activates that may cause harassment.
- Reduce the potential causes of harassment.
Oftentimes guests come out on Trilogy catamarans with grandiose visions of swimming with wild dolphins or inquire about where they can go to have this type of experience. Many people are not educated about the ripple effects that close interactions with wild marine animals and boats may cause. As human and marine animal interactions increase, animals lose their wariness to people and boats. When an animal is no longer weary, it becomes vulnerable to injury or death from boat strikes or entanglement. Sailing with dolphins can be a thrilling experience. Trilogy crew members abide by protection laws and Dolphin SMART regulations limiting interactions with dolphins to a short period of time so as not to disrupt their resting behavior. In order to keep marine animals safe and enjoy seeing them for years to come, it is important to be mindful of the practices companies employ. While on vacation on Maui or in other ocean spots, consider doing business with Dolphin SMART operators.
By Conservation & Education Director Magen Schifiliti