Residents call for greater wildlife protections amid NOAA probe into tour boat’s activities

Federal officials are investigating a tour boat that came close to dolphins off West Oahu.
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 6:39 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2023 at 12:46 AM HST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Federal officials are investigating a tour boat that came close to endangered spinner dolphins off West Oahu — in a situation residents say is indicative of a bigger problem.

It happened off Makua Beach on Jan. 9, according to NOAA.

Officials said the area is a popular spot for the protected spinner dolphin to rest.

The agency requires the public to stay 50 yards away from the dolphins but those rules are not always followed.

“We have issued violations. Whether or not they knew the rules beforehand, I think that just really depends, you know, case by case,” said Adam Kurtz with NOAA Fisheries.

It’s not the first time tour boats came close to dolphins in the area, residents said.

“This has been happening for at least 10 years,” said Micah Doane, of Protectors of Paradise. “The community, I think they are very frustrated and waiting for sometime of further action to take place and that area to be managed a little better with the influx of visitors coming in.”

But NOAA cautions that sometimes incidents like these are not always as they appear.

“When you see these interactions, either on social media or even in person, there are a lot of variables that do exist as well, as far as how the animals are behaving,” Kurtz said.

“The distance and perspective that you have, you know, it can be difficult at times to know what’s 50 yards and what’s not, as well,” he added.

NOAA said no violations have yet been issued for this recent incident but the public can also help them enforce the rules.

“We don’t have a very big office, so we can’t have eyes on the water everywhere,” Kurtz explained. “So we really do rely on our community to help you those eyes and help monitor for us and send in those reports.

The incident has been referred to NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement for investigation.

The NOAA hotline is 1-888-256-9840. You can also send video to to report a tip.

For more information on how to make a report, click here.

For more information on marine guidelines, visit NOAA’s website.